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Professor visits Ethiopia on behalf of World Bank

(June 22, 1994)   —   An East Carolina University professor is in Ethiopia on a fact-finding mission for the World Bank.
Dr. Mulatu Wubneh, a planning and development professor, said before leaving Friday that he will assist in a project to develop groups of independent policy analysts in the African nation. The project is part of the African Capacity Building Program.
Policy analysts give critiques of national policy proposals and decisions, but Ethiopia and many other African nations have few, if any, analysts working independent of their governments’ influence.
Wubneh said organizations that support development in Africa — the World Bank, the African Development Bank and the United Nations Development Program— want information from independent groups they can trust. He said the policy information they are getting now is seldom objective or critical.
“The goal is to create regional centers in Africa to train policy professionals who can operate independently, without government intervention,” Wubneh said.
He said the centers would perform like the Brookings Institute and the Heritage Foundation, two policy study organizations in the United States.
Wubneh’s plans include meetings in Harare, Zimbabwe and Nairobi, Kenya with World Bank representatives before going to Addis Ababa for four weeks of research. His study will include interviews with officials from government and from higher education.
He said he hopes to answer questions about the availability of people who can serve as policy analysts. He will also determine if the government will permit and support an organization that will, at times, criticize national policy.
Following the study, he will discuss his findings at meetings in Zimbabwe and in Washington, D.C.
One of the problems in Ethiopia, he said, is that the country has been advised to cut back on its civil service employment system which has amassed an huge army of laborers. Many of the positions are governmental appointees.
Wubneh said he will look at how these changes are affecting the professional groups that can do policy analysis and economic development. There are indications, he said, that the people who have potential of contributing to policy decisions are being forced into retirement or are leaving the country for better jobs elsewhere.
He said the World Bank would like Africa to take lessons from some of the East Asian countries — Taiwan and Korea — that have obtained success through the advice of independent policy groups.
“The groups should stay independent regardless of change in governments, but I’m not sure if it can be done (in Africa),” Wubneh said. “It is going to be challenging.”
The World Bank selected the ECU professor for the project because of his background in African affairs and planning. He is a native of Ethiopia. In 1990, he directed a study of regional planning in his home country for the United Nations Development Program.