Addis Fortune (Addis Ababa)

8 June 2014

Ethiopia: Chinese Ethiopia Visit Stirs Investment Interest

The delegation of businessmen were especially interested in joining the hotel sector, which had left them disappointed

A group of Chinese businesses and businessmen are talking to a major British consultancy firm about huge investments they are considering in Ethiopia. This came after they visited the country in early May 2014. A group of leather companies are also expected to come sometime between now and September.

A delegation comprising of 23 companies, all in the manufacturing sector, including electronics, machinery and chemicals, came to Ethiopia for a visit that lasted from April 29 to May 4. The group - which came in the company of Girma Temesgen, Ethiopia's Consul General in Chongqing, China, covering southwest China - was selected from a larger group of businesses that the consulate had been talking to with the assistance of China's government and Chamber of Commerce, Girma said.

The group was able to see first-hand what the consulate had been telling them in words, said Girma, a career diplomat who had previously been a director at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA)for 20 years and who opened Ethiopia's Consulate General in Frankfurt, Germany. After their visit, five of the group had crystallised their interests in three areas. These included Liu Yudi, Chairman of the Chongqing Shandong Chamber of Commerce and owner of several landmark buildings in Chongqing city; Dong Yintong, owner of several companies in real estate, transport and coal mining, who also owns two ships to transport coal, and Ram Jianguo, owner of Kailt Machines Plc, manufacturer of agricultural machines, pumps and engines, as well as the owner of a financing company, the Chongqing Beibei Rongde Micro-Credit Co Ltd.

These business people and two others have expressed the possibility of investing in a city upgrade and the construction of a five star hotel in Addis Abeba, as well as the development of an industry park. They have already heard from one consulting company about turning these into concrete businesses in Ethiopia, Girma said. This week they will also be hearing from a British consultant.

The city upgrade they have in mind considers taking some parts of Addis Abeba and rebuilding the entire area into a city complex, with a complete set of facilities - schools, hospitals and entertainment.

Their desire towards building a five-star hotel, Girma said, was borne out of their disappointments with their stay in Ethiopia, despite paying high room rates. They have told the Ethiopian consulate in Chongqing that they want to model their hotel after the Yu Zhou Hotel, where Chinese officials, including those at the highest level, stay when they are visiting that part of the country, Girma said, stating that he is yet to visit the hotel. This hotel, though, might not be bigger than Dreamliner Hotel in Addis Abeba, say some who know both hotels.

The leather industry group expected to visit in the near future was supposed to come to Ethiopia along with the 23 that came in May, Girma said. The local government officials from Bishan County that were to accompany them had to stay due to tight schedules, however, and the entire group decided to stay. Bishan County has been traditionally known as a shoe making community for centuries. Currently, there are 991members of the footwear association, Girma said. Twenty to 25 of the well-known companies have already been confirmed as part of the delegation, he said. Seven of them are companies that deliver products to international brands, according to him.

The consulate covers a region of China with a population of 150 million. Its tasks include seeking investment, technology transfer, trade and tourism opportunities for Ethiopia. It also follows on the complaints of Chinese companies from South-West China already in operation in Ethiopia - these include companies involved in the construction of the Addis Abeba light railway and the Sebeta-Meiso railway, as well as a road construction project from Mekenejo to Dembi Dolo and another company installing transformers to take the electric power from the under construction Gereat Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD)to the national grid. Some of the complaints these companies had raised to the consulate included the delayed installation of electric poles for the railways and farmers who were not leaving road construction sites because compensation was not delivered on time.

The consulate office has arranged years for 76 companies to visit Ethiopia over the past two and half.

"Whether they decide to invest or not, arranging for all these to visit the country is not a simple thing," Girma said. "Over the next four to five years, southwest China could be a big source of investment in Ethiopia." .

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