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Ethiopian National Social Protection Conference: “The Source of Wealth is the Human Mind”

 

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Ethiopian National Social Protection Conference: “The Source of Wealth is the Human Mind”

faceless multiracial sport team stacking hands on court

Dr. Ergogie, Minister of Women and Social Affairs, standing fourth from right, in front of the conference hall.

(First published on June 8, 2023 on Lawrence Freeman’s website)

Ethiopia’s Ministry of Women and Social Affairs (MoWSA) organized a two day conference, May 23-24, held in the Nelson Mandela Plenary Hall, at the African Union Commission, Addis Ababa. The theme of the deliberations was, Social Protection for Nation Building in Ethiopia. As part of Ethiopia’s effort to reduce poverty, and expand economic growth, additional social protection programs are necessary to provide for the vulnerable portions of the population.

The several hundred attendees were welcomed by H.E. Dr. Ergogie Tesfaye, the highly qualified Minister of MoWSA. The conference was key noted by H.E. Demeke Mekonnen, Deputy Prime Minister, and Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The conference concluded with a Call Of Action with five central objectives, of which I highlight the first, the third and the fifth.

          1. Policy Framework and coordination

1.1  Revise the social protection policy and strategy to ensure alignment with the national Ten Years Development Plan, relevance for meeting the current needs of the most vulnerable, and ambition to progressively build a universal social protection system.

1.2  Establish a Social Protection Council to guide, coordinate and oversee the implementation of the social protection policy, strategy, and programming.

3. Coverage and inclusion

3.1  Progressively expand coverage of social protection, ensuring the inclusion and protection of those most in need, including informal workers, people with disabilities, internally displaced people, and refugees.

3.2  Enhance nutrition, protection, and gender sensitivity within social protection programming, and ensure greater access to social services, including community-based health insurance.

5. Jobs and economic inclusion

5.1  Ensure a more inclusive economy and labor market, by increasing access to decent jobs, incomes, and entrepreneurship opportunities for volunteer groups.

5.2  Adopt a government led harmonized framework for the delivery and design of economic inclusion/self-employment/graduation programs for better impact at scale.

Below is an edited version of my remarks, delivered in the afternoon plenary session on May 23, 2023.

Lawrence Freeman addressing the conference on May 23, in the Nelson Mandela Plenary Hall, African Union Commission

“Human Creativity is the Source of Wealth and Why Social Protection is Necessary”

I am honored to be here today.

The Ministry of Women and Social Affairs, under the leadership of Dr. Ergogie, is addressing a critically important topic. As a physical economist, I will add my unique view of the issue that is being discussed in this two day conference.

Why is it important to care, protect, and develop each citizen of the nation, especially the youth? It is more than just a moral and cultural imperative: it is essential for economic growth. And economic growth is fundamental to the peace, prosperity, and stability of a nation. Poverty and hunger are the enemies of peace and democracy.

Contrary to what you may have heard; free trade, supply and demand,  the invisible hand of the marketplace, are not the cause of economic growth. The source of all wealth is the individual, more precisely the  human mind. The mind is the creator of wealth, through its power to  discover new scientific principles embedded in the universe.

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Only human beings-every human-is born with the innate potential of creativity. It is from that power of the human mind that new technologies and inventions are introduced into the economic process. Through the introduction of more advanced technologies, we increase the productive powers of labor to produce more wealth with equal or less effort.

Thus, the elected government is responsible, nay obligated, to protect and care for all of its citizens. Governments must provide for the material necessities of life AND nurture the creative power of the individual. Government must make an extra effort to provide for those most in need, especially our children, because these creative minds must be developed to become productive members of our society and economy. They are the future.

The most vulnerable are no less precious as potential contributors to the production of wealth for their nation. Therefore, it is not an option, but a necessity to care and develop each child, and each citizen.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt understood that every member of society is important, and he initiated innovative programs to provide care for people of the U.S. “from the cradle to the grave.” The cornerstone of this became the Social Security system of the United States.

Economic growth is indispensable to build a nation. This requires the contribution from all of its citizens. I recognize that economic development is a human right. Unfortunately, the United Nations does not. However, the African Union does recognize “social protection and an adequate standard of living” is a human right. Also, the African Charter, article 22, stipulates that economic development, is in fact, a human right.

Lawrence Freeman, giving Dr. Ergogie, a new book on the Grand Ethiopian Renassiance Dam, “How It Happened” by Dr. Dereje Tessema,

From my standpoint, not only is economic development a human right, but electricity is a human right, because without power, economies cannot prosper, and the people of that society will have a diminished standard of living. There will be no growth, no progress for society, without electricity, and without vital infrastructure.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam-GERD, which I visited in December of 2022, will produce 5,150 megawatts of power when completed. The functioning of the GERD will advance the nation, improve the lives of the citizens of Ethiopia, and will help drive economic development in the East Africa region. The GERD will contribute to peace and stability throughout the Horn of Africa and the Nile Basin.

Now let me return to where I started in my presentation. The GERD is a creative act of humankind, a human intervention into the physical environment (physical universe) to capture-create the power of electricity from a river that has been flowing for five million years. Thus, as I emphasized at the beginning of my remarks, the construction of the GERD proves that human creativity is the source of wealth for society.

Thank you very much.

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