The alumnus who is making Ethiopia greener


The eyes of the environmental world are looking towards Ethiopia right now. The country has taken a decision that is unique in the world. They intend to boost the economy without increasing environmental pollution. Haileselassie Medhin, an alumnus of the School of Business, Economics and Law, is in charge of the research centre that will be supporting and observing the new green growth strategy at close quarters.

Developing countries normally follow what is known as the Kuznets curve. When the economy improves, emissions also increase up to a certain level at which point it turns. Ethiopia intends to make this journey in a sustainable way – something that no one has done before.

Haileselassie Medhin“Historically, all countries, including Sweden, have developed out of poverty in an environmentally negative way. Ethiopia has adopted powerful strategies and policies in order to go straight through that curve. This is a unique initiative, which will require lots of new ideas and new technology, but there are many countries involved in making contributions,” explains Haileselassie Medhin.

Head of environmental research center
Such a wide-ranging initiative does of course also require research and evaluation. Haileselassie Medhin is head of the Environment and Climate Research Centre at the Ethiopian Development Research Institute in Addis Ababa.

“We’ve set up the centre in order to fill the knowledge gaps. What normally happens is that academic research takes place in universities and policy analysis in policy arenas. We’re combining both of these perspectives while at the same time generating lots of data. The purpose of the centre is to drive new ideas. For example, at the moment we’re investigating the potential of introducing a carbon dioxide tax in Ethiopia. It’s also a matter of observing how the green growth strategy affects various parts of the economy, making sure that the investments made are relevant in the long term and communicating our results to decision-makers,” says Haileselassie Medhin.

The School’s initiative paved the way
The contact with Sweden came via the School of Business, Economics and Law’s global Environment for Development initiative, which helped establish the research center.

“I studied Economics at Addis Ababa University. Then I started working at a the Ethiopian Development Research Institute – now the home of our center - that was collaborating with the School of Business, Economics and Law. This resulted in my travelling to Gothenburg in order to expand my knowledge of environmental economics. I did a master’s degree at the School of Business, Economics and Law, and eventually I also did a PhD there. But my goal was always to return to Ethiopia and work with these issues on site,” says Haileselassie Medhin.

Since 2015 he has been building up the research centre in Addis Ababa, and it has grown quickly.

“We currently have the highest concentration of environmental economics researchers in the whole region, largely thanks to the fact that Environment for Development had already created the platform. That’s made my work so much easier.”

Feel for good research environments
Building up a new research environment quickly requires both hard work and broad knowledge. Haileselassie Medhin thinks that he has been well prepared for the task.

“Above all, I’ve developed a feel for what a good research environment looks like. If you’ve been part of such an environment yourself, it’s easier to recreate one. The School of Business, Economics and Law also gave me knowledge of how to conduct research together in a group. You might say that I’ve tried to create an environment that attracts people just like me,” says Haileselassie Medhin.

Environment for Development
The Environment for Development Initiative (EfD) builds up local centres of competence in the field of environmental economics all over the world, with a special focus on the link between research, political decision-making processes and academic programmes. EfD was founded at the School of Business, Economics and Law in 2007. There are currently 12 EfD centres around the world in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Central America, Colombia, Chile, China, Vietnam, India, the USA and Sweden.