Africa: Hailemariam Desalegn Joins The Brenthurst Foundation Advisory Board

Former prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn (right).
press release

We are pleased to announce that the former Prime Minister of Ethiopia Hailemariam Desalegn will be joining The Brenthurst Foundation's Advisory Board, effective immediately.

A beacon of democratic values in the Horn of Africa, Desalegn was the second executive head of government as Prime Minister of Ethiopia from 2012 to 2018. Prior to this he served as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs under Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

Desalegn was the first ruler in modern Ethiopia to voluntarily step down from office; those before him either dying in office or being removed through coups and uprisings. His departing message was that he wanted to clear the way for comprehensive and deep reforms and promote genuine democratic change in the second-most populous country in Africa.

Prior to entering politics, Desalegn received a bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering from Addis Ababa University. He then went on to work as a graduate assistant in the Arba Minch Water Technology Institute. He was subsequently awarded a scholarship to Tampere University of Technology in Finland where he earned a master's degree in Hydraulic, Water Supply and Sanitation Engineering. After thirteen years at the Water Technology Institute in Ethiopia he earned a second MA in Organisational Leadership at the Azusa Pacific University in California, USA.

The former Prime Minister became politically active in the late 1990s, becoming Deputy President and President of the SNNPRS (Southern Nations, Nationalities and People's Regional State) in the early 2000s. He was quickly promoted to be Advisor to the then Prime Minister and Chief Whip, and later as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs in 2010. He became Prime Minister of Ethiopia in September 2012. After meeting with Desalegn, European Parliament President Martin Schulz declared that his desire 'to strengthen democracy in the country, allowing greater pluralism and a freer civil society, to uphold the freedoms enshrined in the Ethiopian Constitution' was clear.

During his tenure he was responsible for various regional cooperative agreements promoting partnership and cooperation in the Horn of Africa, including agreements to develop infrastructure integration, intra-trade and investment facilitation, joint tourism packages, peace and security, and aviation. Furthermore, he sustained economic progress throughout Ethiopia following the death of his predecessor and is credited with the country's continued rapid and double-digit economic growth.

Most notably, he led the country to partner with Kenya and South Sudan in the ambitious Lamu Port Southern Sudan Ethiopia (LAPSSET) Transport Corridor, providing landlocked Ethiopia with a new export pathway. More than two- thirds of G7 leaders conducted state visits to Ethiopia during his term, helping to grow foreign direct investment from less than US$1 billion to US$ 4.5 billion.

Desalegn was Chair of the African Union between 2013 and 2014 and chaired AU organisations that included the Peace and Security Council, NEPAD, APRM and ALMA. He was also appointed to champion the climate change negotiations and Comprehensive African Agricultural Programme (CAADP). In addition, he also chaired the East African Inter-Governmental Agency for Development (IGAD).

On his appointment to the Foundation's Advisory Board, Hailemariam Desalegn commented: "It is indeed an honour and a privilege serving African people through the work of this prestigious Foundation. Along with my fellow statesmen and women, and distinguished scholars and professionals selected, I will do my best to achieve the objectives of our Foundation."

Our Chairman and former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, welcomed his fellow statesman: "Hailemariam brings a wealth of economic and political wisdom to The Brenthurst Foundation's Advisory Board. I very much look forward to working with him to develop dynamic and forward-thinking economic policy."

The Foundation's founder, Jonathan Oppenheimer, shared these words: "Prime Minister Hailemariam is our third appointment to the Advisory Board this year and we believe he will be a most valuable addition, bringing unparalleled understanding of both the Horn of Africa and sustainable economic policy."

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