20 August 2016

Ethiopia: Sustaining Ethio-America Business Ties to Boost Exports, Increase Employment

It is significant to explore ways of foreign trade and investment that can help move Ethiopia to more vigorous participation in the global economy, and to the sustainable economic development that will enforce Ethiopia's progress to becoming a middle-income country by 2025. Since, some years ago, the U.S. companies look for a level playing field, with transparency that create a conducive environment to fair competition in African continent.

Through the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA), the U.S. companies could able to design programs to help companies explore trade and investment opportunities in African markets. CCA serves as an excellent door-openers that help U.S. firms establish strategic connections with local business communities in Africa, and facilitate access to key economic decision-makers and senior government officials.

Currently, CCA represents 250 US and Africa businesses interested to help the business community in various sectors such as health-care, agribusiness, energy, security, infrastructure and tourism. Thus, since CCA established in 1993. there has been a lot of work to be done and there has to be a lot of partnership we should have with African businesses.

Recently, the Ethiopian Chamber of Commerce and Sectorial Association (ECCSA) organized a business to business networking among the U.S and African businesses, with an intention to facilitate opportunities to the private sector operators, and enable them sharing experiences on the overall global trade trends.

ECCSA Secretary General Endalkachew Sime noted that in line with the country's development policies and strategies, the Association has been promoting trade in prioritized areas of investment for both local and international investors by organizing business forums, business to business round-table meetings and one to one networking arrangements.

Endalkachew also explained that since the early 1990s, Ethiopia and the United States had maintained effective co-operation in security matters along the horn of Africa. The two countries are revitalizing their partnership and stepping ahead into a progressive form of diplomatic and economic relation for mutual benefit, he said.

According to Endalkachew, the US is an important partner of Ethiopia in regional security and counter-terrorism efforts. Apart from the political sphere, American businesses are showing interest to strengthen long standing ties with the Ethiopian partners through building investment and trade within Africa, and especially in Ethiopia.

Endalkachew considered that this high level business to business meeting has immense contribution to bring a better economic ties between the business community of the two countries. It would create the opportunity to meet innovative American companies and eble to take their enriched experiences in agriculture, ICT, manufacturing and finance, he added.

On the other hand, East Africa Trade and Investment Hub, Investment and ICT Director, and USAID Contractor Kanini Mutooni said that the Hub funded by USAID, and a presidential initiative launched by President Obama in 2013 with the sole aim of using development, promoting trade and investment in the continent.

"The trade hub we have in East, west and south Africa solely focused on doing business. Our mandate is to create job, promote investment, help each other trading with the African continent through inter regional trade," she says.

Embassy of the United States, Political And Economic Affairs Deputy Counselor Philip M. Cummings said that there is untapped opportunities in infrastructure, agriculture and energy sectors. "This is the next step in deepening the two countries' relationship and Ethiopia is on the map for American investment," he added.

As the Ambassador has been in Ethiopia since 3 years ago, "she has met significant progress in opening the market for US trade and opportunities for investment." He stressed, "That is the reason that the embassy is here to support all your trade and investment goals."

Cummings also said that the embassy, commercial and political section, is working on a number of issues here, particularly, for fast tracking investment with the Ethiopian investment commission and the Ministry of Trade.

According to him, a great success in US businesses is the engagement of US company, PVH, running in Hawassa Textile industrial Park, and bringing quality environmental and social standards to the region.

On the contrary, Cummings said, "we have a number of challenges to overcome like opening of the bank and telecom. Despite these challenges, the government of Ethiopia is very open to having more American companies come to the region. We recognize the quality and sustainable partnership that US companies are growing in Ethiopia"

Cummings also said that as the political environment is stabilized, businesses would continue to spur economic growth in the region with expanding private sector participation.

Ministry of foreign Affairs, Director General for the Americas, Ambassador Tebeje Berhe said that Ethiopia is a country that has shown trajectory sustained growth, registered double digit growth for some twelve consecutive years. "As the government and the people, we aim to continue on the right track to be a middle income country in about nine years time," he emphasized.

According to him, the government of Ethiopia is investing heavily on physical infrastructure, railroads, major power projects, telecommunication. He says, "there have been many things that investors need to make in trade and investment, industrialize this country and bring transformation to our economy." Thus, Ambassador Tebeje noted that the CCA and the US business community at large are parts of these routes. "We want you to join us to grow our country forward along with us," he stressed.

Regarding the advantages, Ambassador Tebeje said that American businesses would gain benefit in two ways. Firstly, Ethiopia is the huge country which has about one hundred million population, with large educated youth who are skilled and ready to do the job. Indeed, the youths are not only the producers, but also consumers. That is the reason we should complement each other for further and sustained growth.

Secondly, the Ethiopian government is very open to promote and attract investment from all corners of the world. As they have the know-how, the capital and the managerial skills, the US investors can play a very important role to do business in Ethiopia along with transferring knowledge to local workers.

As the business communities are the driver of growth, the Ethiopian government created a conducive environment in policy levels to make investment easy and attractive. "As we have established friendship with the US since 1903, we should endure the relation in trade and investment," he uttered.

Among the companies came here to share experiences, Gasco Trading PLC, Managing Director Ahmed Mohammed said that Gasco supplies livestock input for poultry, bee keeping and diary farms for processing agricultural products such as meat, honey and milk. Ahmed said, "the forum helps us to grasp some new technologies in slaughter houses, poultry systems and harvesting bee products."

The other US business facilitator, Associate to Vital Capital Fund (VCF) Natasha Oppenheim said that VCF looks impact investment in Sub-sahara Africa. "As we have investment in Angola, Uganda and Ghana; we are currently exploring investment options in Ethiopia in various sectors such as infrastructure, aggro-industrial sector, affordable housing, water treatment."

In addition, she expressed that VCF is looking for "investment opportunities that would produce high positive impact for the communities we invest, and have returns for our investors."

According to her, the forum creates great opportunity to meet people and companies that have pointed real benefit in the country. It helps to learn new things, and change the way we think, rich in new ideas. "So, it is always good that to go out there and see what are the trends, and what is going on," she commented.

Acrow Bridge, Business Development for Africa Justin Tinsey on his part explained that his company specialized in the designing, manufacturing and supplying prefabricated marginal bridges. Acrow is currently executing projects in 80 countries in the globe and in 20 african countries with the support of the us export import bank in Cameroon, Zambia, and simultaneously in Ethiopia.

According to him, bridge infrastructure is critical, and has any access to education, health-care, agriculture. His company would provide critical skills development through training local contractors and individuals for installation that is essentially help them with employment opportunities.

In conclusion, Ethiopia offers tremendous potential and look forward to working with the US investors to bring to life the aspirations of the Growth and Transportation Plan II. The next stage requires solid partnership with the private sector to develop its manufacturing sector, boost exports and increase employment. The US investors need to support Ethiopian trade and investment flow through technology transfer, as well.

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