Conference name, dates, place

International Conference on Contemporary Development Issues in Ethiopia, August 16-18, 2001, Kalamazoo, Michigan

Document Type


Presentation Date



For many scholars, colonialism and neocolonial policies remain the root causes of Africa’s numerous impediments, ranging from the persistence of poverty to the ravages of ethnic conflicts. However, the number of scholars who prefer to ascribe these impediments essentially to the persistence of traditional views and methods and to the lack of reforms radical enough to trigger a sustained process of modernization is not negligible. My position contests this either-or debate and identifies the culprit as the rise of African elitism--a phenomenon implicating the specific effect of colonialism in conjunction with internal African contributions. I take the case of Ethiopia as a pertinent illustration of the precedence of elitism over other hindrances. The fact that Ethiopia, though not colonized, has followed the same declining course as other African countries underlines the derailing role of modern education whose embedded Eurocentric orientations were quick to uproot those sectors of Ethiopian society which were exposed to it. The outcome was elitism, which spearheaded the trend of deeper marginalization and incapacitation of the country. But first, let me give a concrete meaning to the concept of elitism.