23 December 2012

Ethiopia: Happier Times Afoot for Aaccsa

The Addis Abeba Chamber of Commerce & Sectoral Association (AACCSA) conducted its eighth regular general meeting, with 571 of its 10,000 members in attendance, on Thursday, December 20, 2012.

The 571 attendants, however, seem to have experienced the happiest chamber meeting in a long time. Although, few, who did not attend the meeting, complained that it was in contravention of the 2003 establishment proclamation of chambers of commerce and sectoral associations.

A quorum is considered when more than half of the chamber members are in attendance, according to the proclamation.

Nonetheless, this requirement has never been fulfilled. In fact, the largest number of participants the chamber has ever witnessed was in 2010, when the AACCSA extended an invitation to all its members, for the sixth annual meeting, with 860 attending.

In the past, the AACCSA has tried to find a way around this by setting up a delegation system for each sectoral association. It proposed that one person could be delegated to represent up to 40 people, in the sector. Sectoral associations are established by owners of different firms, such as importers, transporters and consultants. This system was adopted in 2005, when Eyesuswork Zafu was the president of the AACCSA. The system was endorsed by a committee, chaired by Girma Birru, the former minister of trade.

AACCSA dropped the delegation system in 2010.

"It was because the delegation system was abused," a member of the AACCSA, who used to serve as a senior manager, told Fortune. "The representation was not working as effectively as it was intended, since the delegates were not picked by an effective election process. Instead they were nominated arbitrarily. This opened up the chamber to have an inadequate representation. Therefore, in 2010, the general assembly replaced the delegation system."

The assembly declared, in its revised articles of association, that a quorum would be met if 500 plus members are in attendance; far less than half of all total members, as indicated in the law. The aim was to secure higher attendance rates and to fix the delegation system, according to the AACCSA. This decision was endorsed by the Addis Abeba Trade & Industry Bureau, in 2010.

Conversely, a legal advisor that Fortune spoke with, argued that both the delegation system that had been implemented for five years, since 2005, and the new system, introduced two years ago, violated the proclamation.

"There is no legal ground that will enable a general assembly to amend what is clearly stated in the proclamation," he said. "Just because the chamber failed to mobilise half of its members to its assembly, it is not enough to amend a proclamation. It cannot even be amended by a directive, let alone a minute."

The latest meeting was not as disturbed a scene as in previous years. Two years ago, members that sought to oust Demissie Assefa, a managing partner at Goh Capital, from his position as board member, were embroiled in angry debates. Last year, too, there was a lot of shouting to avoid the AACCSA from being kicked out of the seven-storey building, atMexico Square. Demssie left, and AACCSA eventually stayed on just two of the seven floors, until it could find a place of its own.

Such legal wrangling, however, was not to be heard during last Thursday's happy meeting, which, for most, was the first one they had ever seen go smoothly. Attended by Mayor Kuma Demeksa, the 571 attendants were pleased to hear from their president, Ayalew Zegeye, that the chamber would request the city for land, where they could build their own headquarters.

There would be more applause, as Kuma affirmed that the city would help to realize the chamber's plan.

"We should thank God that such a time of controversy is over and we can begin to discuss our projects," one of the attendants said at the meeting. "It is astonishing that the two chambers came to an agreement and we are discussing about building our own headquarters."

The Chamber announced that it has allocated three million Birr, for preparatory works, and appointed three people, including; Tsehay Shiferaw, board member of the AACCSA and president of Awash International Bank (AIB) and Getachew Regasa, secretary general of AACCSA, to follow issues related to the headquarters construction.

The ACCSA also announced the establishment of the Addis Africa International Convention & Exhibition S.C, with 20 shareholders and a capital of 12 millionBr.The AACCSA has an eight million Birr share, the city administration two million and the national chamber 50,000 Br. Gift Real Estate also has a share.

Kuma, in the meeting, confirmed that the city administration decided to have a 33 million Br share and promised to effect payment. This makes it the highest shareholder.

Some of the attendants, however, were not happy with the share that the AACCSA holds in the company. One of the attendants requested that the chamber should increase its share in the company, in order to act as owner.

Ayalew told Fortune that the Chamber would call an extraordinary meeting for shareholders, within the next two weeks. The centre will have the capacity to seat 5,000 people at a time and will include a five star hotel, at an estimated construction cost of two billion Birr.

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