Why is Ethiopia poor even though it was never colonized?

VHS

Ad Honorem
Dec 2015
3,977
Where Pica hudsonia thrives
#31
This is misleading, at least in the case of Africa. The Sudanese Mahdists were probably stronger than the Ethiopians in the late 19th century, but were colonized while Ethiopia wasn't. I also don't think the Ethiopians were more powerful than Samori Toure's empire (the Wassalou empire) at all, but they were able to gain access to better weapons in a way that Samori's troops never could.
Military power was the key to independence and prosperity; when a country was subjugated militarily, it might be looked upon with contempt.
Then, most, if not all, current major civilizations were subjugated or conquered in their history; what matter is the current level of development, not any past glories.

The five years was nothing nice of course - famines due to the occupation, the systematic burning of homes, the elimination of a substantial part of its intelligentsia by the Italians (in the Addis Ababa massacre), etc. I'm sure this had certain long-term effects. But I would actually look at Ethiopia's 16 year civil war as one of the main causes, plus the partial political instability that existed for some years even after that war came to an end.

That said, the country actually is improving in recent years - a lot of growth is going on there if you look at the most recent reports.
The population growth and environmental degradation are two major crisis in Ethiopia today.
 
Apr 2018
355
Upland, Sweden
#32
Samori's army was a professional army. There is some information about his state's army in this article. While they could levy additional men as needed, the state did have a permanent standing army of regular soldiers. Although the praise for the quality of Samori's troops in some French sources would have to be viewed critically - with the understanding that some of the French officers might naturally praise their opponent in order to highlight the capability and skill of the enemy that they were able to defeat, and thereby highlight their (the French officers') own competence and ability - the admiration really does seem genuine. Plus, there is also the simple fact that the French did not heap such praise on the soldiers or warriors of just any African group that they fought and defeated, even though different French officers campaigned against numerous states and peoples in west and central Africa over a period of more than half a century.

The notion that Samori's forces were mostly just outgunned doesn't really come from Yves Person in particular. Even before his massive study (I called it a biography earlier, but perhaps "study" might be a more appropriate description) of Samori's empire was published, it was already well understood that the French had had better weaponry overall - Samori wasn't able to acquire artillery in any substantial quantity for example.

The case of Ethiopia is unique in that they were able to build up a very substantial arsenal of modern weapons by buying large quantities of them from Europeans well before there was any plan to attack and permanently conquer their state by a European power. In Samori's case, the smaller amount of modern weapons that he could buy (through Sierra Leone, then a British colony) came to an end in 1892 after the British and French reached an agreement that the sale of guns to Samori through the British colony of Sierra Leone would end (Samori's empire did manufacture some of its own firearms, but the loss of access to more modern firearms through Sierra Leone did put them at a disadvantage). The Ethiopians didn't really have that problem at any point; they had been buying such weapons (in huge quantities) long before any conflict with the Italians. The opportunities to purchase modern weapons for the two states had always been quite different. There is some information about the nature of Ethiopia's acquisition of firearms in the late 19th century in this book (there is a bit more to it than what is discussed there but that gives a good outline).

I did get a bit off-topic of course, but really I meant to highlight with my earlier comment that another state supposedly being "weak" (unlike Ethiopia) isn't really always an accurate description of the main difference that existed between Ethiopia and some other states when it came to resisting foreign occupation. Some other (non-Ethiopian) states just had completely different (worse) opportunities for acquiring weapons from the start. Yes, there certainly were numerous states in Africa (or elsewhere in the world) that were simply weaker than the Ethiopian empire, period. Weaker in organization, quality of soldiers, leadership, diplomatic ability, strategy, unity, ambition, and so on. I wouldn't disagree with that. But in other cases (and Samori's empire is definitely one of those cases) the real differences lay in one or two things that were far more simple and straightforward, such as opportunities to purchase better weapons.
Good points. Sometimes contingency is actually quite important in history. I downloaded the Jstor PDF, and I have to confess, it opened a whole world I hadn't heard of before. Very interesting.

A question I've been thinking about (given that Ethiopia is what I am best acquainted with in African history, and that does unfortuantely not say much)... is there any way in which they could have succesfully modernized (and perhaps the Solomonic dynasty maintaining power)? What are the probable points of departure for such a development from our original timeline?

Perhaps the period Ethiopia was colonized could have been crucial here despite its short duration, as it may have upset the internal continuity of reform. Doesn't seem completely improbable, as I can't really think of a too many country that successfully modernized post-colonialism in the immediate decades following World War 2 without succumbing to the fashionable economically disastrous socialist policies (the Asian tigers excluded of course).
 

Ighayere

Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
2,358
Benin City, Nigeria
#33
Good points. Sometimes contingency is actually quite important in history. I downloaded the Jstor PDF, and I have to confess, it opened a whole world I hadn't heard of before. Very interesting.

A question I've been thinking about (given that Ethiopia is what I am best acquainted with in African history, and that does unfortuantely not say much)... is there any way in which they could have succesfully modernized (and perhaps the Solomonic dynasty maintaining power)? What are the probable points of departure for such a development from our original timeline?

Perhaps the period Ethiopia was colonized could have been crucial here despite its short duration, as it may have upset the internal continuity of reform. Doesn't seem completely improbable, as I can't really think of a too many country that successfully modernized post-colonialism in the immediate decades following World War 2 without succumbing to the fashionable economically disastrous socialist policies (the Asian tigers excluded of course).
Some of the Ethiopian intelligentsia were actively looking at Japan as a model for the modernization of their own country, prior to the second Italian invasion. Unfortunately, for political reasons, the Ethiopian-Japanese alliance didn't really come to fruition prior to the Italian invasion and occupation, and the "Japanizers" among the Ethiopian intelligentsia were apparently not able to gain enough support or exert enough influence within Ethiopia to get Ethiopia to pursue a more rapid plan of modernization. As a result, Ethiopia may have missed its chance to go down the same route that Japan did.

The historian J. Calvitt Clarke has published several articles and an in-depth book on the issue of the tentative Ethiopia-Japan alliance, which go into detail about the "Japanizer" movement among some of Ethiopia's intelligentsia, and why it failed to achieve its goals. Here is a link to the second chapter of the 2011 book by Clarke, in which he discusses the "Japanizer" movement among the Ethiopian intelligentsia: Alliance of the Colored Peoples

He also contributed a chapter to this 2016 book, in which he also discusses the possible Japanese-Ethiopian alliance.
 
Aug 2018
41
Anatolia
#37
It makes it sound like any full black country has ever acquired welfare. Africans has never built up a strong nation, yet. Some African countries had prospered via Europeans and Muslims and they failed when they excommunicated with them (Zimbabwe, and now South Africa).
They should have been colonized in order to be introduced to the standards of the rest of the world.
 
Aug 2018
238
london
#38
Personally I was quite impressed knowing a guy from Mali who works in Italy: his family is still seeing the French troops in his country!!!!! What if Malian troops enter France? How would Macron react?
French military assistance was requested by the government of Mali and based on a UN resolution. The aim was to combat islamists who were taking over part of the country. Incidentally those islamists burnt a lot of old manuscripts in Timbuktu.
 

AlpinLuke

Ad Honoris
Oct 2011
24,138
Lago Maggiore, Italy
#39
French military assistance was requested by the government of Mali and based on a UN resolution. The aim was to combat islamists who were taking over part of the country. Incidentally those islamists burnt a lot of old manuscripts in Timbuktu.
It's more complicated than that. I've explained it in an other thread. There is a Tuareg region in the North wanting the independence and since Mali has got a good 80% of Muslims actually common people see Tuareg rebels as guys fighting for the freedom of their homeland [and negotiations for the autonomy, at least, of the Tuareg regions are in progress] then as "terrorists" [despite the terror attacks in Bamako ...]. Think to Northern Ireland for a comparison.

Moreover the present political situation of the country has come out from a military coup [and the military commanders asked to France to intervene the first time]. Anyway the point is about the French troops on the ground, when Paris limited its presence to air close support Malians didn't mind that much.
 
Jan 2018
39
Yopaw
#40
Because what made Africa poor wasn't really colonialism but what happened after, during the cold war period, and the institutions that were inherited from this period, as they weren't conducive to prosperity. This period was very unstable, leaders came and left(or were killed by external powers), and coups and civil wars were everywhere. Ethiopia, in particular, had a violent civil war during this period, and a sadistic leader that killed as many people as Kim Sung-II.
 

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