Anchor international companies are investing in Ethiopia:…
Zelalem Birhan received his Bachelor of Arts in economics from Addis Ababa University in 1992. He also received his graduate degrees in Diplomacy and International Law and Business Administration from Coventry University in England and Southern Queen University of Australia respectively. He then served in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development (MoFED) as an expert. Currently, he is Business Diplomacy Directorate General at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA). Here follows the exclusive interview the Amharic Daily Addis Zemen held with Zelalem Birhan regarding Ethiopia’s business diplomacy and its outcomes.
Question - Would you please elaborate the major activities that have been carried out in the business and diplomacy streams?
Zelalem – Based on the principles of the country’s Foreign Affairs and National Security Strategy, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs sees business diplomacy as one of its key tasks. That is why it has been striving to conduct effective business diplomacy in collaboration with stakeholder institutions.
For instance, with the primary goal of attracting potential investors into the country, it promotes nation’s investment potential, invites investors to pay business trips to the country, and makes easy the exchange of information between and among foreign and local institutions through the country’s diplomatic missions.
Furthermore, it promotes the country’s investment friendly strategy and policy to foreign investors and works in collaboration with pertinent bodies to overcome challenges that investors may encounter while doing business in the country. The other major task of the Ministry is conducting market research, promoting export, facilitating technological transformation and creating market linkage.
Promotion of the country’s tourist sites is the other responsibility bestowed upon the MoFA. In this regard, Ethiopian diplomatic missions have been exerting tremendous efforts to prop up and excite tourists through foreign travel agents.
What are the tangible activities undertaken in the past three years in the sector?
Various activities have been carried out in the past three years. Foreign companies have been invited into the country and conducted business to business dialogues with concerned bodies. In the past two years, over 200 anchor international companies have visited the country to do businesses. In general, within the past three years, 3,100 (small and medium) firms have visited the country. In the same way, within the stated time, 175 trade fairs have been organized nationally and internationally. Accordingly, for instance, in 2016 alone, it was managed to create 4,431 local and international firms have created trade linkages.
Similarly, the number of travel agents recruited by Ethiopian missions abroad has exceeded 140. These agents have included Ethiopia’s tourist sites in their packages and are promoting them through their websites, pamphlets, and promotional materials.
Many times, it has been witnessed that the agreements signed with various countries or companies failed to be materialized. What is the reason behind?
To tell the truth, though there is disparity between the number of visitors and investors, the investment in flow is increasing from time to time. To give straight answer to the question why all visitors who came do not invest in the country, the answer is clear – [and that is why] we are still striving to make our service delivery efficient.
There are challenges associated with infrastructure and provision of land. In this regard, we need to deal with bureaucracies and other hindrances. However, as I mentioned before, in all ways, the inflow of investment is increasing significantly. It is undeniable fact that Ethiopia is ranked among the top investment destinations in Africa. Let alone small and medium foreign firms, even global anchor companies are investing throughout the country.
Would you please mention the anchor global firms that have invested in Ethiopia?
So many worlds’ biggest firms have invested in Ethiopia. Particularly, Major global anchor manufacturing companies have taken part in the Hawassa Industrial Park. To mention, companies like Germany’s automotive, Belgium’s sanitary product manufact urers, Indians’ and Turkish textile factories, Morocco fertilizer companies are few among the others. Moreover, identifying nation’s renewable energy resources, companies from Europe and United States have shown keen interest to invest in the country.
The construction of industrial parks across the country has created favorable opportunity for investors and is attracting leading manufacturers across the globe in to the country. Industrial parks have enabled the country to respond to infrastructural challenges.
Which are the leading countries in investing Ethiopia?
China is the leading country in making investments in Ethiopia followed by Turkey and India. Sudan has also plenty of investments. There are also investors from England, Germany, and United States of America.
Did the unrest in some parts of the country in the past two years have impacts on Ethiopia’s investment activities?
It is not possible to say no. Investors when they want to commence business in foreign lands; the main issue they take into account is stability. ‘Is the country safe to invest?’ is the first question they ask. So far, the investment flow has been encouraging. Though the problem occurred in some parts of the country, it could have its own impact.
What are the major focus areas in the future?
It is imperative to strengthen the country’s business diplomacy at institutional level. Through building our human capacity and conducting various activities, our effort is to significantly expand trade, tourism and investment. The Ministry has been conducting various studies in this regard. To this effect, we will further strengthen our economic diplomacy activities to accelerate the growth of the country’s economy. Particularly, due attention have been given to attracting potential investors, promoting tourism and exporting local products, and facilitating technological transformation.
By ELIZABETH MENGISTU