It's been a year of momentous political change in Ethiopia, the second largest country in Africa by population. And next year 2019, looks like the trend is gonna continue as this sleeping giant of East Africa wakes up and tears down the borders with its neighbors, to form a common market of possibly 250 million people.
I'm Ed Cropley an African columnist for Reuters Breaking Views in London. It's more than 30 years since Ethiopia occupied the world's headlines because of war, pestilence and in particular, famine. 30 years on it's now occupying the headlines for very different reasons. An astonishing wave of
reform is swept across the country within under a new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who came to power in April.
He's overturned the judiciary, he's reformed security services, and he's opening up his borders to common trade and investment. And it looks like he's gonna try and do the same with his regional partners. This comes at the same time that you've got a very reformist president in Rwanda under Paul Kagame.
This is 25 years after the genocide in Rwanda. And the two of these two together Abiy Ahmed and Paul Kagame look like being a force for real trade and integration in East Africa that could turn it into a dynamic investment and commercial manufacturing hub. As a region, East Africa is sucking in a huge amount of Chinese investment, especially in roads and railways.
Infrastructure that's going to make it much easier to trade and travel in the region. And given those barriers coming down, you're having a market that's gonna be about half the size of the European Union. And remember, this is the time that European Union is finding its own barriers going up internally.
To prevent the movement of people across borders and trade across borders. So this looks like East Africa is bucking the trend that's happening in the rest of the world. And if it succeeds, it might even send a lesson to the rest of the world that having lower barriers, making friends and trading with your neighbors, is indeed the way to go.