- Whatever happens, this Nation and its developmental stride will continue" Athlete Haile Gebresilassie
Investment has been one of the sectors in Ethiopia that has been basking under a special attention during the past few years. It is contributing to the national economic growth and many citizens are benefiting from the jobs created so far. Realizing the enabling opportunities and potentials in the country, foreign direct and local investors are engaging in agriculture, agro-processing, horticulture, construction, manufacturing industries, hotel and tourism, mining and other sectors. They have also proved that Ethiopia is a lucrative investment destiny and their investments are major cogs of the Nation's developmental progress.
The national reform that Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed's administration is striving to translate into action portrays promising prospects. Despite this fact, some old politicians of the former ruling party; EPRDF, that run out of charm and power try to greet with a cold shoulder the new premier's offer to work together for unity and prosperity. As a result, they have opted to become Trojan horses to different external and internal destructive forces in a botched labor to disintegrate the Nation. They had been plotting destructive scenarios that posed threats not only on the investment sector but also on other national grand projects.
There have been several unsuccessful attempts to hatch havocs that run the gamut from trying to assassinate the premier to orchestrating coupdettas and cooking bizarre stories to allegate the incumbent about the selling of GERD.
Meanwhile, the recent murder of the popular Ethiopian vocalist Hachalu Hundessa and what happened next, in some parts of Oromia State, is an indicator of the desperate acts of these groups. Violent mobs wreaked havoc on properties and claimed the lives of innocent people.
Haile Gebresilassie, the invincible, world famous Ethiopian Athlete has been investing his hard-won wealth in different parts of the Country. However, the recent mobs' rage that has occurred following the death of Hachalu had found vent in a regretful destruction on one of his investment ventures. But the damages done would not wane the far sighted vision he has for his Country. It would rather deepen his determination and step up his contribution for the development of the country in line with what his country envisions. He has even donated one of his Ethiopian-assembled Hyundai brand new electric vehicle to PM Abiy Ahmed. His company goes his company; Marathon Motors. The Ethiopian Press Agancy (EPA) has spent time with Haile to discuss his views on the current national issues. He is our guest for today's edition.
EPA: How do you describe your feeling concerning the death of Hachalu Hundessa?
Haile: I am terribly sorry about his death. He has been a great role model for many people. The death of Hachalu is not only the loss of an individual but it is a death of many. He has gone through so many troubles and made so much sacrifices for the cause he believed in. Getting arrested and suffering didn't daunt him from his struggle. He didn't even leave his Country. And finally he was martyred. I understood who Hachallu was after hearing the ideals he espoused and aired following his tragic demise. I deeply regret that.
EPA: There were some property damages on one of your hotels following Hachalu's death. What do you say about that and the current national concerns?
Haile: First of all I would like to correct the term that you used as "your company" I would appreciate if you say "our company". Even though the companies are under my name, their contribution in terms of creating jobs, urban beauty and development, generating revenue for the government and the like make them not only mine but everybody else's properties. Most of all, the significance of the hotels in the states, where they are established in, is very crucial.
Therefore, the damage inflicted targeted not only me. It is rather a nationwide loss. For instance, it is obvious that the hotels have stopped rendering services following the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the employees were still getting paid from the income that the hotels earn from other branch companies. The hotels being out of service is a pain in the neck. Thus, the first victims would be the employees and their families.
When I come to the major issue concerning the Country, I do not believe the problems in Ethiopia and of its peoples could be solved by politics alone but we are obsessed by it. Instead of focusing on our jobs, most of us are deeply concerned about what politicians say. Some of the utterances are sugar-coated ones. We imbibe such utterances not questioning the stance of political parties. That is because we have considered politics as our heart beat and concluded that the Nation's problems would be solved by politics alone. This is big mistake has even affected the economy. It has made citizens suffer from inflation and expensive life.
EPA: How do you assess the domino effect of recent chaos on the investment sector?
Haile: I cannot say it does not have any impact at all. Everyone invests today considering the prospects or benefits one reaps tomorrow. If peace and stability are there and sustained for tomorrow, people would benefit from their hard works. A country would prosper through investment and investment would develop if watered by peace and stability. No one would like to outlay wealth in a situation where there are no guarantees. For instance, my hotel in Ziwai would be renovated and get back to business soon. But in the absence guarantees for the damages that might happen tomorrow, what would be the purpose of reinstating it? The recent inflicted damages may not be that much a threat for the indigenous investors but it may dampen the upcoming foreign direct investment and economy.
EPA: Do you think the damage done on your establishment would pull you back or or spark a positive energy and resilience?
Haile: When such things surface repeatedly, one may lose hope as an individual. But the feeling goes from bad to worse when you learn you are attacked by your own people as the saying goes a stab on the back. But Ethiopia is my Country. Many of our people sacrificed not only their properties but also their lives for the furtherance of this Country. So, we cannot just give up our hopes but only continue to ensure Ethiopia's perpetuity by paying more sacrifice and nothing less.
Out standers may think that we are on the right state of mind when we say that we will ensure the existence of this Nation no matter how the difficulties we are going through.
Our companies which are established in different parts of the Country are still operational except those that have encountered damages. The people in Shashemene and Ziwai towns have always believed in us and have strong trust on our common visions. I am sure that the people who understand the purpose of the investment and our vision have never involved in such destructive mobs.
For instance the youths in Ziwai would spend their time in our resort during the hot dry season and they know that it is a valuable asset for their surroundings. Therefore, they would not be involved in destroying the jewel of their town [the resort]. So I would say that whatever happens, the Nation and its developmental stride will continue.
I am from Arusi (Zone of Oromia State) and made it to Addis Ababa almost on my barefoot. I used to hide my shredded shoes when I walked around. And when all that passed and I happened to be a champion to travel around the world, many foreign countries have offered me their citizenship. I am always grateful for that. But I am not a person who would trade my Ethiopian identity for luxurious allurements from elsewhere. I rather live in my Country with my people. I was recognized and awarded in global arenas because my Country represented me.
Athletics that I have always been efficient on and my Country put me in charge of is ascribable to the source of my wealth. Therefore, I owe my Country and my people for all the successes that I gained. Whenever I invest here, I know that I am contributing to my Country's development and prosperity. I know that I am contributing to the urban development and modernization.
I will never stoop to the destructive plots of external enemies for my Country is my Alpha and Omega. Even if I am working for my self-development, I have no wish to invest in any other country because I want to create more jobs for my fellow citizens with a special focus on young Ethiopians. I still believe that fellow businesspersons, who have suffered like me from trigger-happy mobs, will not give up their visions but should demonstrate resilience and determination. The government has to ensure the rule of law and the public has to stand by the government. In the presence of a sustainable peace and security, investors will exert their full potential and contribute their share for Ethiopia's development.
EPA: How do you think that Ethiopia would handle the internal external problems mainly concerning the GERD?
Haile: I do not think that the internal problems are the major threats in Ethiopia. It is the external intervention that is causing the internal problems. Concerning the GERD construction, the Egyptian leaders have come to understand that it cannot be stopped and there are indications that their only option is trying to create conflicts and destabilize the Country.
Ethiopian have already understood these intentions and as long as they keep their unity, the threats coming from any group that opposes Ethiopia's right to use its natural resources will never be a big concern.
EPA: Thank you very much for your time!
Haile: Thank you for having me as your guest!