Ethiopia: 'Brazil and Ethiopia Are Enjoying Excellent Bilateral Relations,' Ambassador Villarinho Pedroso

interview

Today's exclusive guest is Luiz Eduardo Villarinho Pedroso, Ambassador of Brazil in Ethiopia. Ambassador Villarinho Pedroso was appointed as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Brazil to the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia in 2019.

According to Brazil Embassy in Ethiopia, Luiz Eduardo de Aguiar Villarinho Pedroso joined the Brazilian Foreign Service in 1984. He has been posted to the embassies of Brazil in Madrid, Beirut, Brussels and served at the Consulate General of Brazil in Beirut. In Brazil, he has held the positions of assistant at the Immigration Division, the Division for Sea, Antarctica and Space and the Middle East Division. Ambassador Villarinho Pedroso was also the head of the Division for Human Resources and the General Coordinator for Human Resource Planning. He served as the Minister Counselor at the Embassy of Brazil in Athens.

The Ethiopian Herald made a short stay with the Ambassador who says, "Brazil and Ethiopia have had a long diplomatic relations which dates back to the 1950s." Excerpts:

Herald: Would you tell us the current and historical relations between Brazil and Ethiopia?

Ambassador Villarinho Pedroso: Currently, Brazil and Ethiopia are enjoying excellent bilateral relations. And the frequent exchange of high-level visits between Brazil and Ethiopia has contributed to the intensification of bilateral dialogue and cooperation in areas such as agriculture, renewable energies, science and technology, education, and social development.

Fortunately, the diplomatic relation was established in 1951 when we had only a diplomatic representation here. Then in 1960, Brazil opened a resident embassy in Addis Ababa. In December 1960, His Majesty Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie paid an official visit to Brazil. A few years after the Emperor's visit, Brazil closed its embassy in Addis Ababa for budgetary reasons.

As Brazil was granted Permanent Observer status at the African Union (headquartered in Ethiopia) in 2005, it re-opened its embassy in Addis Ababa the same year. Ethiopia, in its turn, reopened its resident embassy in Brasília 2011. Since then we have embassies on both sides.

Herald: Following the establishment of the embassies, what activities were undertaken to improve the relations?

Ambassador Villarinho Pedroso: Having embassies on both sides resulted in frequent events and cooperation that foster bilateral relations. Among these, Former External Relations Minister Antonio de Aguiar Patriota made an official visit to Addis Ababa in 2012. He held meetings with the late Prime-Minister Meles Zenawi and with the then Foreign Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. In the same year, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi traveled to Rio de Janeiro to attend the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20). In May 2013, Former Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff traveled to Ethiopia to attend the African Union's 50th-anniversary celebrations where she met with the then Ethiopian Former Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn.

Moreover, the two countries were also involved in cooperation projects in the areas of basic sanitation. For instance, in 2016, both nations along with UNICEF- Ethiopia signed the Trilateral South-South Cooperation Project "Strengthening the Water-Supply and Sanitary Sewage Services in Ethiopia."

Following this, the First Meeting of Bilateral Political Consultations was held in Addis Ababa in April 2018. On these consultations, governments of Brazil and Ethiopia signed the Agreement on Investment Cooperation and Facilitation (AICF). In the same year, Ethiopian Airlines started linking Addis Ababa to São Paulo, Brazil's vibrant financial center, daily.

Something very important here is the beginning of the flight of Ethiopian Airlines which contributed a great deal in boosting the bilateral relations since several people started relying on it for commercial and transportation purposes. The frequent flight initiated a high exchange of goods and visits.

Herald: Would you mention some other areas of cooperation both nations are pursuing?

Ambassador Villarinho Pedroso: We have been doing a number of cooperation and agreements to boost the commercial relations, the investment flow and the like. We are constantly working to improve our relations in technical and commercial cooperation.

Our areas of cooperation include forestry management. As we have well-developed economic, technical and scientific aspects of managing natural and planted forests, we can share experiences. In connection to this, we can also cooperate in correction of acidity in the soil. The soils in Ethiopia have similar characteristics with that of Brazil. This correction is done through limestone.

Interestingly, as part of the existing partnership between Embrapa, Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation, and the Ethiopian Agricultural Research Institute (EIAR), Brazil and Ethiopia maintain technical cooperation projects in the areas of sustainable forest management and acid soil management. As this Brazilian institute, Embrapa was established at the beginning of the 1970s in order to boost agricultural production and productivity in the central part of Brasilia, it has developed high technologies that help to solve the question of acidity of the soil. As a result of years of commitment to this institute, we have increased food production in Brazil. We have also improved the climate and landscape. Hence, we have a lot to share for the Ethiopian institute.

Apart from this, we can also cooperate through improving coffee production. As Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee and Brazil is the biggest producer, we can boost cooperation in this regard. Here you Ethiopians have high, top quality of coffee; you only need technologies that enable you to increase production and productivity. We can easily cooperate here for we also have coffee Arabica.

Besides this, we can also cooperate through the management of cattle as Ethiopia has more heads of cattle more than any country in Africa, more than 65 million heads of cattle. Ethiopia has a high potential for poultry and cotton production while Brazil has developed high technologies to improve their productivity.

Moreover, we have to promote the investment environment in the country to the Brazilian investment. We do have local representatives of Brazilian companies here. They are importers of Brazilian products here. We have companies participating in the transportation sector. For instance, last September, we delivered 50 buses to ODA which is the public authority of transportation company. These buses were produced by Brazilian company known Marcopolo which is the third biggest producer of buses in the world.

We are also planning to work with The Ethiopian Airlines. The aerospace industry of Brazil is the largest throughout the southern hemisphere and we have advanced aviation industry. We are also amazed by the tremendous progress of the Ethiopian Airlines. Currently, while many companies are losing their businesses due to COVID-19, the Ethiopian Airlines is recycling and reinventing techniques that enable it to withstand the possible challenges. Some of the planes transport the passengers while others serve as the cargo. We appreciate the leadership of the airlines. It has become a very important transportation system for people in a different part of the world during the COVID-19. Different parts of the world rely on the transposition service of Ethiopian Airlines. Providing the necessary logistics in the fight against the COVID-19 is a marvelous job.

Herald: You are here when the nation is pursuing new political reform. How do you see the current political changes in Ethiopia?

Ambassador Villarinho Pedroso: I am glad to be here during this special moment. There are a number of big transformations in the political landscape of the nation. The change is not only political; it involves economic transformation. The changes are positive. I am privileged to serve in Ethiopia during this unprecedented progress; all kinds of democratic efforts ought to be welcomed.

I remember in Brazil, we had a very dynamic transformation in the 1960s. As time on we proceeded to democracy. Ethiopia is now pursuing paths that can lead it to democracy. I believe the international community appreciates the positive changes in Ethiopia that came as a result of the national reform.

The reform is still promising despite the challenges. Liberalizing the economy by easing ways of doing business, and environmental protection efforts are also encouraging. Along with constructing the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, ensuring the rights of using its water resources through negotiation with the riparian countries can also be seen as the positive results of the reform.

Herald: A few months ago, the U.S. Treasury Secretary proposed some procedures in the final testing and filling of the GERD. Unfortunately, what the U.S. tried to propose could not help any part of the GERD. Was inviting the U.S to the negotiation deal appropriate?

Ambassador Villarinho Pedroso: I believe African problems should be treated by African leaders. Even though there is a possibility to invite trusted mediators in the course of negotiations, managing the disputes around the Grand Renaissance Dam by Africans is a conscious decision. I appreciate an African solution to an African problem.

For instance, the recent meeting led by his excellency President Ramaphosa, the Chairperson of the African Union, to review progress about the Trilateral Negotiations on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is more effective, in my opinion, to encourage the progress of negotiations and solve technical and legal issues.

What makes the negotiation led by the African Union more effective is the riparian countries would have better trust and confidence in the AU-led process. They also find it easy to reiterate their utmost commitment to finding mutually beneficial and negotiated agreements concerning the dam. Though there is nothing wrong with inviting non-Africans to mediate, when Africans handle the situation, the three countries realize their benefits of integration, sustainable development and prosperity.

Herald: Several hydro political experts and water researchers on the Nile river say that Ethiopia has pursued a prudent approach that can make all the riparian countries beneficiaries while Egypt is merely chasing its benefits. How do you appreciate Ethiopia's approach to considering the benefits of the riparian nations and its commitment to encourage negotiations?

Ambassador Villarinho Pedroso: I believe Ethiopia's approach to encourage negotiations and reduce any possible potential harm on the riparian nations is positive. I personally appreciate Ethiopia's persistent efforts and commitment to negotiations that may find a sustainable and permanent solution on the GERD matter.

Herald: Though Ethiopia consistently witnesses that the construction of the dam can never cause any significant harm to the riparian countries, Egypt is worried that the dam might affect the water flow. As a result, recurrent disputes became common between the two nations. What would you suggest so that Ethiopia and Egypt will maintain agreement?

Ambassador Villarinho Pedroso: Negotiation! I believe the already started negotiation should be sustained wisely. Frictions are often inevitable when a question of resource sharing arises. About five decades ago, we faced a similar problem when we were constructing the Itaipu Dam which is a huge hydroelectric dam on the Paraná River between Brazil and Paraguay.

It is one of the largest operational hydroelectric energy producers in the world, with an installed generation capacity of 14GW. As we continued constructing the dam, we got some friction with Argentina and Paraguay. We pursued all possible diplomatic negotiations to manage the frictions and establish lasting solutions. Thus, all the parties of the Grand Renaissance Dam ought to use negotiation and solve their disputes.

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