About Professor Arkebe Oqubay

Professor Arkebe Oqubay is Senior Minister and Special Adviser to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia. He has been at the centre of policymaking for 30 years. He is a development economist, an ODI Distinguished Fellow, and Professor of Practice at University of Johannesburg. His most recent Oxford University Press (OUP) publications include Made in Africa (OUP, 2015); How Nations Learn (OUP, 2019); African Economic Development (OUP, 2020); and … Continue reading About Professor Arkebe Oqubay

COVID-19 – An unprecedented global threat that deserves unprecedented leadership

By Arkebe Oqubay, Senior Minister and Special Advisor to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, distinguished fellow at the Overseas Development Institute and author


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


leader-crisisCOVID-19 is the greatest global threat the world has faced since the Second World War. It is not the deadliest or most infectious disease recorded, but the level of globalization and interconnectedness of the world render it particularly destructive. The depth of the global economic crisis is exceptional; not only is it worse than the 2008 global recession, it is exacerbated by its occurrence at a point where there is weakened global collaboration and political posturing over COVID-19 at an international level and in many individual countries. The world’s response to the virus was briefly but perfectly expressed in the New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s statement, “This is an enemy that we have underestimated from day one and we have paid the price dearly”.

Heroic sacrifices have been made by health personnel and frontline workers across the world, while the wider public, also affected by tragedy and sacrifice, has demonstrated its readiness to follow measures to curb COVID-19. Many local and national governments, despite the initial delay, have shown exceptional leadership in their efforts to avert disaster and to inspire the public and vulnerable members of society. However, the actions, or lack of them, of some leaders have spread confusion and disruption. Continue reading “COVID-19 – An unprecedented global threat that deserves unprecedented leadership”

How do Nations Learn? Why Development is First and Foremost About Learning

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By Dr Arkebe Oqubay, Senior Minister and Special Advisor to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia 


This blog is part of a series marking the upcoming 
19th International Economic Forum on Africa 


Photo-by-Nathan-Dumlao-Unsplash
Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Policy makers and academics alike puzzle over why some countries achieve economic ‘growth miracles’ while others lag behind. Of the 100 middle-income economies in 1960, fewer than a dozen transitioned into high-income economies. Economic history and empirical observations show that progress is linked to how nations learn and more specifically to the processes of technological learning, industrial policy, and catch-up. By looking at the cases of Japan, the United States, China and Ethiopia, I argue that commitment to learning by governments and dynamic technological learning by firms are key to economic catch-up. How these and other nations learn can provide valuable insight for African countries.

How did Japan overtake Europe in the mid-20th century?

The key driver of catch-up in Japan was technological learning and an active industrial policy. Japan’s learning experience involved the transfer of skills and knowledge, the importation of equipment and the acquisition of turnkey projects to develop technological capability. Japan also developed industrial infrastructure, including railways and the telegraph, by deploying state-owned enterprises. Continue reading “How do Nations Learn? Why Development is First and Foremost About Learning”

Achieving inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and the SDGs in the post-COVID-19 world

By Professor Arkebe Oqubay, Senior Minister and Special Adviser to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

In the context of international development, the year 2015 marked the transition from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to the much broader 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the much more ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It signalled an emerging paradigm shift in the international development agenda, a collectively agreed set of universal goals for an inclusive and sustainable global development process.

Continue reading “Achieving inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and the SDGs in the post-COVID-19 world”

Ethiopia’s Response to COVID-19

By Arkebe Oqubay, Senior Minister and Special Advisor to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, distinguished fellow at the Overseas Development Institute and author


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


Ethiopia-coronavirus-shutterstock_1190087614Africa Day this week is remembered at a time when the world faces an unprecedented crisis. Africa is not immune and has seen over 110,000 cases of COVID-19 and 3,300 deaths. To the surprise of many, African governments have taken bold and swift measures in response to the pandemic, despite their resource constraints and weaker economic base. However, the responses have not been uniform, and the outcomes are likely to be uneven.

Ethiopia is one of the countries that put bold measures in place early on, even though its approach has been an unconventional one. Unlike most African countries, Ethiopia did not introduce national lockdown. The country’s ‘sustained moderate to strong measures’ strategy focused on taking bold measures early and scaling them up gradually. Preparations began in January and February, and a national response was declared with Ethiopia’s first reported case on 13 March, with tighter measures including compulsory quarantine and an increased public awareness campaign. A state of emergency was declared on 8 April. Continue reading “Ethiopia’s Response to COVID-19”

How Africa Can Fight the Pandemic

By Arkebe Oqubay, Senior Minister and Special Advisor to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, distinguished fellow at the Overseas Development Institute and author


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


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Sumy Sadurni / AFP via Getty Images / Project Syndicate

WHO warns Africa could be next epicentre of the Coronavirus and the pandemic will kill at least 300,000 people in Africa and push nearly 30 million into poverty.


The response to Africa’s COVID-19 plight must be swift and at scale rather than too little, too late. In a world short of progressive global leadership, where rules-based global governance is under threat, this is a chance for African and international policymakers to take decisive action.

Addis  Ababa – The COVID-19 death toll is still mounting in the developed West, but the pandemic’s impact on Africa could be much worse. African and international leaders must act boldly, decisively, and immediately to prevent a catastrophe. Continue reading “How Africa Can Fight the Pandemic”

When COVID-19 Comes to Africa

By Arkebe Oqubay, Senior Minister and Special Advisor to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, distinguished fellow at the Overseas Development Institute and author


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


covid19-africaThere is no telling how long it will take to bring the COVID-19 coronavirus under control, or how many people will be affected. But African governments, in cooperation with communities and international actors, can take steps now to limit the damage – and lay the foundations for a healthier, more resilient future.

Addia Ababa – The COVID-19 coronavirus – which has now spread to more than 100 countries – has pushed the world into “uncharted territory,” according to World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom. So far, Africa has recorded relatively few infections, but there is no reason to believe this won’t change. When it does, the results could be catastrophic.

One need only recall the West African Ebola epidemic of 2014-2016 to comprehend the potential damage. The hardest-hit countries were Guinea (with 3,814 cases and 2,544 deaths), Liberia (10,678 cases and 4,810 deaths), and Sierra Leone (14,124 cases and 3,956 deaths). Moreover, since August 2018, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has faced its own large-scale Ebola epidemic, with more than 3,444 cases and 2,264 deaths (as of March 10, 2020). Continue reading “When COVID-19 Comes to Africa”