Accepted paper:

Making Entrepreneurial Subjects in Ethiopia: The Nexus of -Aspiration and Responsibility


Julian Tadesse (Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient / University of Basel)

Paper short abstract:

The paper explores the link between the promotion of entrepreneurship as career choice for university graduates in Ethiopia and the reconfiguration of responsibilities between state and citizens this entails. Thus young people’s aspirations of joining the middle class are channelled.

Paper long abstract:

Since the early 2000s the Ethiopian government has invested heavily into the expansion of the higher educational sector. Graduates of higher education institutes are supposed to contribute to the government's goal of transforming Ethiopia into a middle-income country by 2025. For many graduates however educational status does not translate into becoming part of the nascent Ethiopian middle class, instead they become part of a growing group of unemployed youth. One proposed solution to the unemployment problem is to encourage graduates to start their own business, to achieve this end young people are encouraged to join entrepreneurship training programs. However rather than putting an emphasis on technical skills needed to run a business, these programmes target the transformation of attitudes and seek to encourage participants to take on the responsibility for their own economic advancement. This paper argues that entrepreneurship programmes in Ethiopia serve to channel young people's aspirations of joining the middle class in a way that suggests their ambitions can only be realized through rigorous self-management and the acceptance of economic uncertainty as a personal responsibility. In doing so these programmes mark a decisive break with the past, as historically the Ethiopian state under different regimes saw it as its responsibility to guarantee employment to those who joined its higher educational institutions. The paper is based on the examination of official discourse, expert interviews and observation of entrepreneurship training programs, it draws on a conceptualisation of "responsibilisation" as a governmental technique.

panel P112
Engineering the Middle Classes: State Institutions, Wealth, and Aspirations of Citizenship