Gebrehiwot Baykedagn

Gebrehiwot Baykedagn (1886-1919) was an Ethiopian doctor, economist, and intellectual.[1] He was born in 1886[2] in Adwa, a northern Ethiopian town. In a trip to the port of Massawa, Gebrehiwot and his friends got permission from the captain of a German ship to visit the ship. On departure, he stowed away (this may not have been deliberate, according to Alemayehu Geda, 2004). On arrival, the captain entrusted the young boy to a rich Austrian family, who adopted him. This good fortune opened to him the opportunity to study the German language and to go to school. His exposure to Western education was thorough, and he pursued medical studies at Berlin University. He returned to his country and became private secretary and interpreter to the Emperor Menelik II, who defeated the Italian colonial army in 1896 at the Battle of Adwa. Later on, while the Haile Selassie was still the successor to the throne, he fulfilled important administrative functions. He served as inspector of the important Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway until his premature death in 1919.

Major works

He published two majors works in Amharic, the Ethiopian national language: "Mengistna ye Hizb Astadadar", published in 1924 after his death and translated into English in 1995 as "State and Economy of Early 20th Century Ethiopia"; and in 1912, "Atse Menilik na Ethiopia", which was translated into French in 1993 as "L'Empereur Menelik et L'Ethiopie".

Professor Emeritus of History at Addis Ababa University, Professor Bahru Zewde tells us that the latter book was written with the hopes that Menelik’s successor, Iyasu V would take up his recommendations and proceed to modernize the Ethiopian state.

While his recommendations went unheeded by a young prince little interested in the affairs of state, Gebrehiwot went on to exert considerable influence on Ethiopian affairs for the rest of the century. His writings expressed deep concern with national institutions, structural economics, income inequality in development, and trade imbalance between developed and underdeveloped nations. It is for this reason that Addis Ababa University Professor of Economics Dr. Alemayehu Geda calls Gebrehiwot one of the world’s pioneers in the study of "Development Economics".


After his death at the age of 33, his ideas went on to influence generations of Ethiopian intellectuals. One can clearly distinguish Gebrehiwot’s ideas in the thought processes of the young revolutionaries of the 1970s.


  1. Messay Kebede (2008). Radicalism and Cultural Dislocation in Ethiopia, 1960-1974. University Rochester Press. ISBN 978-1-58046-291-4. Retrieved 13 July 2012.
  2. Paul B. Henze (2000). Layers of Time: A History of Ethiopia. Hurst & Company. ISBN 978-1-85065-393-6. Retrieved 13 July 2012.
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