Ethiopia: Nation with Poor Branding

May 18 , 2019
By Eden Sahle

Europe is a continent imbued with history, culture and magnificent architecture. It is a brand all by itself, a dazzling experience for anyone willing to visit.

In visiting other countries though, what is of note is how little people know about Ethiopia. Their knowledge of the nation does not exceed much more than its name and perhaps its geographic location.

Ethiopia is poorly represented around the world. Most people do not know anything about Ethiopia. Worse, those who do only know of the negatives. For decades, the image that has been embedded in the eyes of the world about us is of a nation that is backward, poor or at war.

Decades of weak planning and misguided economic development strategies has meant a nation that cannot depend on a skilled workforce. Instead, we have been looking for handouts, either from Western development partners or our own diaspora community overseas, most of which subsist on jobs that they would have looked down on in Ethiopia.

This dependent mentality has long infected leaders who are busy asking for aid and funds to support a fragile economy. Like much of the public, their view is of a country that is impossible to fix. The notion of a good day's work is barely existent. We have failed to grasp the concept that every developed country has had dynamic economic strategies and sacrifices to make a better nation for future generations.

Ethiopian embassies are not doing much to change the image of this country through the access they have to public figures and leaders overseas. Annual event activities in Ethiopian embassies are nothing more than ineffective promotion campaigns and do very little to build an Ethiopian brand.

Certainly, building a nation's good name is not simple. But conveying a good image locally and to the rest of the world should be one of the priorities of the government. The nation must take advantage of globalisation, in which communication, opportunity and culture are used to generate sustainable economic benefits. It is a powerful method that can allow Ethiopia to be identified in the global social and economic arena.

The government will go a long way if it can craft public diplomacy to inform and to reach citizens and companies. This would create the organisational framework in which our diplomats can be led and measured by.

A positive image cannot be crafted unless institutions and cultures are promoted, as well as national goals and current policies for sustainable economic development. Instead of working hard to be eligible to acquire aid and funds from developed countries, international relations must be directed toward establishing a good image and promoting ideals for non-nationals to take an interest in.

Ethiopia can be represented by the culturally diversified nation with untapped opportunities it has. The ever-increasing development of social media means that the infrastructure is already there - what is missing is the creativity to use this to our advantage. Public diplomacy is directly related to effective public relations at the government level, where the image of nations is successfully communicated on a brand. Hiring local and international firms can go a long way in popularising branding.

Ethiopia is a poor country, but this is not the only defining characteristic it has. It is also a tragedy that this is what the world thinks of it. Images of hunger and famine have lingered ever since the 1980s, while the successes since that moment and culture of the nation have failed to garner as much attention. A constructive image that can help the world develop an updated image of the country is overdue. The initiative should come from the government by developing a policy and putting in leadership skilled people that know how to navigate the challenges.

PUBLISHED ON May 18,2019 [ VOL 20 , NO 994]

Eden Sahle is founder and CEO of Yada Technology Plc. She has studied law with a focus on international economic law. She can be reached at

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