9 June 2018

Ethiopia: "Ethiopia - Land of Economic Opportunity" Ambassador of India to Ethiopia

Ambassador Anurag Srivastava

. 600 Indian companies engaged in forefront investment sectors

. Trade volume between Ethiopia and India reached about 1.13 billion USDs

Harnessing their long-standing bilateral and commercial relations that can be traced back over 2000 years, the economic and business ties between Ethiopia and India have currently grown significantly, especially in the areas of trade, investment, agriculture and infrastructure projects, according to Ambassador of India to Ethiopia, Djibouti, and African Union.

In an exclusive interview held with The Ethiopian Herald, Ambassador Anurag Srivastava said the economic relations between Ethiopia and India have flourished since the time of the Axumite Empire, in which their trade relations started in the exchange of silk, spices, gold and ivory.

"In modern times, Indian traders have the unique trade destinations being amongst the first foreign direct investors in Ethiopia. In early 20th century, Indians mainly from Gujarat move to Ethiopia and established their businesses here. Since then, Indian businesses are among the foremost foreign investors in Ethiopia," Ambassador Srivastava noted.

Till today, India is among the top three economic partners of Ethiopia. Currently, the total value of Indian investment here, which is licensed, is about four billion US Dollars.

At this time, there are 600 Indian companies registered and engaged in various key sectors such as engineering, plastic, chemicals, textile and garment. Of which, 55 per cent of Indian investment is in the manufacturing sector, whereas about 20 per cent are in the agriculture sector, the Ambassador disclosed.

According to him, Indian investments in this country have been largely connected and aligned with the priority of the Ethiopian government, as planned in the second growth and transformation plan, which is focused on light manufacturing sector.

Generally, Indian investors are perceived here as a very enterprising, resourceful, resilient to challenges, and have seen ups and downs and they bond very well with the local people, he commented.

More of that, "Ethiopia is a land of economic opportunity, in which it is the second largest in terms of population in this continent, has a large domestic market, is also a gateway for Africa, and a hub for civil aviation."

Besides Ethiopia has key place in the region, the country offers many comparative advantages for investors, the government has investors-friendly policies, it offers political stability, has cheap labour force and market access to US and Europe. The cost of electricity and its low labour cost are also the reasons that investors come to Ethiopia to invest, he added.

"Our trade volume is currently about 1.13 billion USDs, which is mainly dominated by Indian export items. We are trying to address balance of trade issue as well as increase Ethiopian exports to India, too. This is to ensure the trade relations become more sustainable" Ambassador Srivastava.

Asked if there are some challenges for investors, the Ambassador said that as any emerging and developing market, Ethiopia has certain challenges; however, investors have come in here cognizant of these challenges. Some of the challenges are largely in the area of the banking sector, customs regulations and in terms of foreign exchange shortages.

"Having discussion with the government as well as between experts and group of investors at business forums, we have been able to find solution in addressing issues of investors."

With regard to development cooperation, Ambassador Srivastava said the development cooperation between the two countries is in the spirit of south-south cooperation.

Such collaboration has been going on for the last half century, particularly in capacity building, which has been important for elevating our bilateral relations.

Since it was launched in 1969, the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) has been very successful in providing training for 400 Ethiopians every year.

Under the ITEC programme so far Embassy of India, Addis Ababa has sent about 2338 Ethiopian students to India for training in the area of agriculture, healthcare, information technology, and communications sectors among others. 211 Ethiopian candidates have attended the trainings in 2014/15, 208 candidates took the training in 2015/16, 266 in 2016/17 and 365 in 2017/18 fiscal years.

In addition, some 458 Ethiopians have been awarded scholarship under the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) between 2014 and 2018. And 115 Ethiopian nationals have attended the IAFS-III Scholarships programmes, the Ambassador noted.

The Ambassador said that those who have been benefiting from these programmes are occupying important positions in their home country.

The capacity building cooperation that the Indian government offers for individuals and institutions in Ethiopia has given immense contribution for the development of this country, he indicated.

Besides these economic and development cooperations, Indian companies are engaged in the construction of some manufacturing projects in Ethiopia, particularly in sugar sector such as Fincha, Wonji Shoa and Tendaho. The construction of Fincha Sugar Factory has already completed and handed over to the Ethiopian government, whereas Wonji Shoa and Tendaho are under production, the Ambassador added.

The two countries have been sharing the same contexts and challenges and there is a lot to share in terms of our development expertise, with the government and various agencies, the Ambassador said.

Regarding the similarities between the two countries, the Ambassador said that both Ethiopia and Inida have ethnic and culturally diverse population; in this background, their major challenge is managing development in democratic context.

Moreover, the two countries have also large rural population, who have to be provided with adequate healthcare, education, and livelihoods.

Thirdly, the demographics in both countries show that they have young populations. In India, 50 per cent of the population is less than 25 years of age, which is perhaps similar to Ethiopia.

Consequently, as the young peoples have their own hopes and aspirations, they have to be connected to the larger development paradigm. Sharing expertise and experience, this is the area where both learn from each other and can benefit a lot, he further noted.

The Indian government is also establishing Center of Excellence in Addis Ababa and Adama Science and Technology Universities, and creating experience-sharing platform for the leather and textile sectors counterpart institutions.

For the future, the ambassador said: "We plan to elevate our diplomatic relations much higher level; we would like to realize the potential of our partnership and we have already walked in that direction in the last one year."

"In the second joint committee meeting held between our Foreign Ministers in New Delhi last month, some important decisions were taken to further enhance our bilateral relationship." "We have signed three important agreements with the government of Ethiopia in the last one year, in the area of cooperation in information communication, diplomatic services institutes on both sides and an agreements on trade."

Ambassador Srivastava concluded that both countries share many complementarities and synergies, particularly in economic and commercial sectors. For instance, Ethiopia has a large arable land while India is looking to enhance food security by sourcing food grains, oil seeds and pulses. The two countries can work together to harness such complementarities and synergies, he stated.

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