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An Ethiopian policeman looks at his mobile phone while people dry their clothes in Lalibela, Ethiopia. Photo: Eric Lafforgue/Art in All of Us/Corbis via Getty Images

The world's fastest growing economy is not India (6.7% in 2017) or China (6.8%), but Ethiopia, according to a World Bank estimate that puts the East African country's 2017 growth at 8.5% and projects 8.2% growth in 2018, ranking second only to Ghana (8.3%).

The big picture: With 102 million people, Ethiopia is the 2nd most populous country in Africa and the 12th most populous on Earth. It's also one of the world’s poorest countries —sitting just above Haiti and below Afghanistan in terms of GDP per capita — and its rapid growth has brought millions out of extreme poverty. But ethnic violence, a government crackdown and high unemployment are putting "one of Africa’s brightest success stories" at risk, per Eurasia Group's Signal newsletter.

A sustained boom
  • The rapid growth isn't new. Ethiopia's economy grew by an average of 10.5%/yr. between 2005 and 2015.
  • As of 2000, 56% of Ethiopians lived on less than $1.25 per day, the highest rate in the world at that time, per Quartz. That percentage dropped to 31% by 2011 and has continued to fall.
  • Ten years ago, mobile phones were virtually non-existent in Ethiopia despite being fairly common in some parts of Africa. Now there are 50 cell phones for every 100 Ethiopians — low compared to more developed countries but high when you consider only 24% of the country had access to electricity as of 2013, the most recent available statistics.
  • Agriculture still dominates the economy, with coffee as the leading export, but half of Ethiopia's GDP growth from 2004 to 2014 "came from services, like hospitality and transportation, which was mostly a result of country’s urbanization," per Quartz.
China's Role
  • When the African Union built its $100 million headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's capital, it was funded by the Chinese.
  • China built Addis Ababa's airport, the ring road around the city and a major highway. China has also invested in energy and rail projects in Ethiopia.
  • Per a 2010 Irish Times piece: "Besuited Chinese businessmen can be seen discussing deals in Addis hotel lobbies, while engineers and others fresh from working on road and telecommunications projects or building power stations and water supply systems haggle for souvenirs in the city’s sprawling Merkato before flying home to Beijing."
Troubling trends

From the Signal newsletter:

"Ethiopia is now burdened with severe wealth inequality, high unemployment, particularly for young people, and deadly ethnic unrest. In response to intensifying protests, the government declared a state of emergency in October 2016 and in the ensuing months arrested 29,000 people, according to the country’s defense ministry. The emergency order was lifted in August 2017, but protests have continued."

Go deeper

Former Blizzard CEO says he "failed” women at the studio

Image: Neville Elder / Getty Images

Mike Morhaime, who co-founded and worked at video game studio Blizzard for 28 years, has apologized publicly for toxic work conditions at his former studio, which is now the subject of a discrimination and harassment lawsuit by the state of California.

Why it matters: Morhaime is no longer at Blizzard, but was its leader for most of its existence and therefore was in charge when much of what is alleged in California’s suit would have occurred.

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NFL to fine unvaccinated players $14K for violating COVID-19 protocols

Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs wears a facemask while preparing for the start of Super Bowl LV. Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The NFL will fine unvaccinated players $14,650 if they violate COVID-19 protocols this season, ESPN reports.

The big picture: The rule change comes two days after the NFL announced that postponed games due to coronavirus outbreaks among unvaccinated players or staffers will not be rescheduled and teams responsible for delays will automatically forfeit.