The Politics of Developmentalism, Citizenship and Urban Youth in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

  • Eyob Gebremariam

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis explores the politics of developmentalism and citizenship in Ethiopia. The overarching question it seeks to answer is: how does the politics of building a developmental state affect the citizenship of urban youth in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia? The thesis analyses primary qualitative data and reviews policy and legal frameworks to answer this question. The thesis argues that the aspiring Ethiopian developmental state has the tendency to use repression strategies against young citizens pursuing their civil and political rights within created spaces; whilst it facilitates the emergence of invited spaces of citizenship. The state primarily promotes social and economic rights within these invited spaces. The state adopts strategies of co-operation and co-optation when it offers social and economic rights. In response to the repressive strategies of the state, young citizens adopt resistance as a strategy of citizenship to continue pursuing and claiming civil and political rights. The thesis adopts a relational and process-oriented approach to conceptualize citizenship and thereby critically examines the relations between the aspiring developmental state and the urban youth. Citizenship is defined as context-dependent dynamic processes that involve relations between the aspiring developmental state and urban young citizens where both actors are contesting for rights within spaces of citizenship by adopting different strategies. The key characters of the aspiring developmental state that influence its relations with the urban youth emanate from its intertwined political purposes and developmental objectives. Likewise, young citizens also exercise their citizenship rights to meet their priorities and interests that are affected by their age as well as their ‘waithood’ status. The findings of the thesis explain the politics of citizenship by illustrating how the developmentalist aspirations of the state and the ‘waithood’ status of urban youth significantly shape the interplay between rights, spaces and strategies. The state combines its developmentalist ideology, policy and legal frameworks as well as its structures of mobilization to affect the processes of citizenship. By doing so, the state facilitates opportunities for young citizens to claim social and economic rights in invited spaces primarily through co-operation and co-optation strategies. Simultaneously, the state also restricts young citizens from claiming their civil and political rights within created spaces through its repressive strategies. This leads to young citizens adopting resistance as their main strategy of citizenship. From the youth side, their context-dependent relation with the aspiring developmental state varies depending on the type of citizenship rights they prioritise within the different spaces of citizenship. Some young citizens are willing to trade-off their civil and political rights within invited spaces in order to better claim social and economic rights; whereas other young citizens remain determined to reject co-optation and continue to claim their civil and political rights in spite of very severe repressive strategies pursued by the state.
Date of Award1 Aug 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorDavid Hulme (Supervisor) & Solava Ibrahim (Supervisor)


  • youth
  • Ethiopia
  • politics of development
  • citizenship

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