Poverty main driving force for Horn of Africa instability, says PM Hailemariam

Poverty is the main driving force for the instability of the Horn of Africa region, said Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, who is at a three-day official visit to Sudan.

The Premier made the remark while presenting today a research paper for Khartoum-based diplomatic community and Sudanese intellectuals under the topic “Horn of Africa: Possibilities of an Economic Community.”

Responding to questions raised by participants, the Premier underscored that poverty is the main cause for the instability in the Horn of Africa.

According to the Premier, building global competitiveness via regional economic integration is the key solution for the peace and stability of the region.

The time is now for Africans to play their role by filling the market gap being observed at a global level, he said, adding that it is not an option to start swiftly practical activities not to miss this chance.

In a related development, PM Hailemariam today met with Vice-President of Sudan, Hassabo Mohamed Abdul-Rahman.

According to Sudan News Agency (SUNA), the Prime Minister and the Vice President discussed on the progress of bilateral relations and ways of boosting them further in a way that serves the interests of the two brotherly people.

The meeting also sought ways to achieve peace in Horn of Africa, particularly in South Sudan as peace in the world’s youngest country is an essential issue for both Ethiopia and Sudan.

The meeting also discussed agreements and protocols signed between the two countries within the context of the joint Sudanese-Ethiopian high economic committee.

PM Hailemariam and the Vice-President agreed that the committee to hold meeting in next -September in Khartoum.

Ethiopia, Norway sign $80 million forest protection, restoration agreement

On the 16th of August, Ethiopia and Norway signed 80 million US dollars agreement for investment aiming to protect Ethiopia’s remaining natural forests and for transforming the forest sector.

The grant will be used for forest protection and restoration activities and for establishing innovative public-private partnerships in the forestry sector.

The support will contribute to Ethiopia’s Climate Resilient Green Economy (CRGE) Strategy which aims for middle-income country status by 2025 while maintaining greenhouse gas emissions at 2010-level.

To achieve this, Ethiopia plans to avoid greenhouse gas emissions of 255 Mt CO2e by 2025, compared to a business as usual emissions scenario.  Half of these emissions will be avoided by protecting and restoring forests.

The agreement constitutes the main element of Phase II of the Ethiopian-Norwegian partnership agreement on forests and climate.

Deputy Premier briefs aid organizations on drought relief efforts in Ethiopia

On the 10th of August 2017, Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen briefed representatives of international development aid organizations on the ongoing drought relief efforts in Ethiopia.

The government has been working to provide support for those who are in need of emergency food assistance as a result of the drought that hit the country, Demeke said at the meeting held at his office.

Previously, the government had exerted maximum efforts to prevent and control the worst drought which resulted from the El Nino weather phenomenon, he said.

The Deputy Premier further said that the government is always ready to do all it can to prevent the loss of a single life due to the drought which hit lowland and pastoral areas in the aftermath of El Nino weather phenomenon.

Demeke also called on development aid organizations to strengthen their support for the ongoing drought relief efforts.

Praising government’s efforts to cope with the drought, representatives of the organizations pledged to give the appropriate responses for the demand of the government, according to office of the Deputy Prime Minister.

Walking the walks of the Belt and Road Initiative

This contribution of the Embassy of Ethiopia, Beijing, was originally published in the 7th issue (July 2017) of The Ethiopian Messenger, the quarterly magazine of the Embassy of Ethiopia in Brussels.

Ethiopia is one of the African countries that welcomed with enthusiasm China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), an ambitious intercontinental development strategy that intends to boost trade and stimulate economy along the proposed Belt and Road routes and beyond. Officially named “The Silk Road Economic Belt” and “The 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road”, the BRI will build massive amounts of infrastructure connecting China to countries around the globe. It will also boost market integration and create a regional economic cooperation framework that will benefit everyone.

Whilst the original Silk Road historically connected China with Europe via Central Asia and the Middle East, the new initiative will also link China’s southern coast to East Africa and the Mediterranean. Although the exact significance of the BRI for Africa remains to be defined, it will help the continent plug its infrastructure deficit, a necessary step for economic development, and in particular industrialization. Africa clearly stands to benefit from such reconfiguration, in line with the African Union’s Agenda 2063.

Many factors, such as the country’s strategic location near Africa, Asia and Europe, combined with its astounding abundance of resources, could contribute to make Ethiopia a key partner for the BRI in Africa. In fact, China is already investing heavily in industrialization projects in Ethiopia through the construction of industrial zones and major infrastructure projects.

Addis-Djibouti Railway, constructed in cooperation with Chinese companies

The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation

China has enhanced its cooperation with Africa to promote the development of transformational infrastructures and industrialization on the continent, and Africans have responded positively to such initiatives.

In 2000, Africa and China’s engagement was formalised trough the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), the chief platform for China-Africa relations. The 2015 FOCAC Summit upgraded China-Africa relations to a comprehensive strategic and cooperative partnership. China pledged multi- billion dollars in financial support to the FOCAC Action Plan (2016-2018) adopted in Johannesburg, with a focus on infrastructure development and industrialization.

In April 2016, China singled out a number of countries which would be the focus of its industrial cooperation with Africa before extending the cooperation to the whole continent. The same countries are likely to become the gateways for the Belt and Road Initiative on the African continent, and Ethiopia happens to be at their core.

Facilities connectivity and green energy

Ethiopia aspires to scale up its infrastructure investment, which is a strategic pathway to lift growth and foster employment creation and sustainable development and a priority area for implementing the BRI. The physical infrastructures undertaken with Chinese partnership and support are already making a difference in Ethiopia’s overall attractiveness for investments. In addition, both countries are pushing the promotion of green and low-carbon infrastructure construction and operation management, taking into full account the impact of climate change on the construction. Ethiopia has been globally praised for its commitment to building a green non-carbon economy by 2025 and power generating plants and grids built with Chinese financing in Ethiopia are 100% based on developing renewable energy sources.

China has also partnered with Ethiopia through supporting massive telecom infrastructure developments, that have helped in increasing telecom service access and coverage across the nation’s territory as well as in upgrading the existing networks to new technologies. Chinese telecom giants – Huawei and ZTE- have been participating in execution of many projects in Ethiopia.

Linking China and Africa: The Aerial and Maritime Silk Route

Ethiopian Airlines (EAL), as one of the largest and longest serving flag carriers in Africa, operates 31 weekly flights from 48 African cities to five gateways in China, (Beijing, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Chengdu). As it is expected that both Africa and China will increase their cultural, tourism and educational exchanges in the future, this expansion will lead to the creation of a real “Aerial Silk Road” in the skies of Africa, that will play an essential role in promoting investment, trade, tourism and people-to- people relations between Africa and China.

In terms of maritime transport, the Ethiopian Shipping Lines (ESL) has been sailing to 30 ports in China since 1994 and Chinese companies have already started investing in Djibouti’s port infrastructure. As shipping is the lifeblood to the globalization thrusts in the spirit of BRI, transportation, sipping lines will continue to expand to satisfy the ever- growing needs of private and public enterprises.

Growing industrial and people-to-people bonds

Sino-Ethiopia partnership in industrialization and production capacity building has started dispelling negative myths associated with Africa and supported the narrative of Africa rising instead. China’s surplus capacity is bringing about to Africa employment, quality products, and technology and development ideas, while Ethiopia has strived to develop economic zones and industrial parks as structural booster to jump in industrialization. Chinese enterprises have also started building their own industrial hubs or cities along the railway line running between Addis Ababa and the port city of Djibouti.

At the same time, Ethiopia and China have a intensifying people-to-people relation. Thousands of Ethiopians are studying and doing business in China and tens of thousands of Chinese nationals are working in Ethiopia on various projects. These interactions are crucial player to deepen cross-cultural relations and understanding between the two people.

Partnering for building a global community of shared future

The relation between Ethiopia and China is not limited solely to the economic sphere, but also extends to peace and security. By improving the living standards of people in the BRI intercontinental sphere, the BRI aims to lay down solid foundations for social stability and favourable conditions for regional peace and the resolution of security issues

Ethiopia and China have always been committed towards these goals. In Ethiopia, the fight to make poverty history has for long been connected to its national security and stability. China, for its part, supports the African Union, its regional economic communities and other African sub- regional institutions to play a leading role in coordinating and solving issues of peace and security in Africa. This showcases China’s commitment to global responsibilities and Sino-African solidarity. But it is also important for the two countries to create more economic zones to continue to attract productive investment in a bid to benefit from production capacity cooperation, employment generation and sustainable economic transformation. Though it is a Chinese initiative, the BRI implies a common journey of nations that will take them to a shared destiny with an incremental process of synergetic cooperation.

Ethiopia briefs Addis-based diplomats on decision to lift state of emergency

On the 7th of August 2017, Addis-based ambassadors and diplomats have been briefed on the government’s decision to lift the state of emergency.

On the occasion, Dr. Negeri Lencho, Minister for Government Communication Affairs Bureau recollected the reasons over why the state of emergency was declared in Ethiopia back in October 2016, following the unrest in some parts of the country, the measures taken in the course, the ongoing political reforms and grounds for lifting the state of emergency.

Dr. Negeri Lencho, Minister for Government Communication Affairs Bureau and Mrs. Hirut Zemene, State Minister for Foreign Affairs

Dr. Negeri recalled that following the unrest in Oromia and Amhara regional states, hundreds of lives were unnecessarily lost that included women, children and even security forces and close to 50 investments were affected due to the unlawful acts of anti-peace elements. Accordingly, the Minister added that the promulgation of the state of emergency was meant to restore law and order and ascertain the peaceful conduct of day-to-day activities of the public.

Minister Negeri also reminded his listeners that important sections of the state of emergency had been revised following the improvement of the security situation, which he said included the lifting of the partial curfews and travel restrictions on diplomats, the release of over twenty-one thousand detainees and the full reinstitution of the internet.

Touching on the measures taken in the course to redress the genuine concerns of the public, the Minister mentioned among others the thorough investigations by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, the wide range of consultations with the various members of the public, the ongoing serious investigations on corruption and the inter-party dialogues now underway in a bid to widen the political space.

Dr. Negeri added the government’s decision to lift the state of emergency is ascribed to the restoration of law and order in the country, adding that, with the exception of few places, the situation has been reversed and now that the normal local administration and security mechanisms could take over.

Mrs. Hirut Zemene, State Minister for Foreign Affairs, on her part thanked the diplomatic community for the patience and confidence it has shown over the country’s leadership in the course of enforcing the state of emergency.

Mrs. Hirut reiterated that the series of consultations and town-hall meetings made with the different segments of the public, including women, youth and civil societies, the 10-billion Mobile Youth Fund, the inter-party political dialogues, the government’s commitment to deal with the problems of mal-administration and stem corruption are all set on track to advance sustainable and equitable development, and social equality, and ensure democratic governance and the respect of human rights.

Taking stock of the proposed reforms of the country’s election law and of the ongoing inter-party political dialogues, the State Minister said “We are optimistic that we will manage to bring more people on board the political space.”

Ethiopia is making early progress in implementing Sustainable Development Goals

An article from A Week in the Horn, issue of 4 August 2017 (link)

It’s been a year and half since the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) came to effect in January 2016. The Sustainable Development Goals, also known as the Global Goals, number 17, with a total of 169 targets, envisioning ending poverty, protecting the planet and ensuring that all people enjoy peace and prosperity within the next fifteen years. Different from the previous Millennium Development Goals, the interconnected 17 SDGs also include new areas such as climate change, economic inequality, innovation, sustainable consumption, peace and justice. They also take into consideration the fact that tackling one SDG also impacts on the efforts of addressing others.

Ethiopia recorded remarkable achievements in a number of the Millennium Development Goals, implementing them in an integrated manner with its first national Growth and Transformation Plan. It has acted similarly in working for the implementation of the SDGs. As noted in the United Nations Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform page, Ethiopia, informed by its earlier experience and recognizing future opportunities, has accepted and endorsed the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, integrating it with its national commitments and ownership to implement the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals. Synchronizing these with the its Second Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP II), Ethiopia has been making progress in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals ever since they came into operation.

An extract of a summary report outlining the methods and processes used in Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) on the implementation of the SDGs has been published on the United Nations Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform. The executive summary report, extracted from the full report of the 2017 VNRs on Ethiopia’s implementation of the SDGs, was prepared after Ethiopia, invited by the United Nations Economic and Social Council, volunteered to participate in a 2017 Voluntary National Review.

The finding of the report indicated the Government’s fully fledged commitment to pro-poor policies and strategies, to the leadership and administration mechanisms and tangible efforts due to provide the necessary momentum for implementation of the SDGs. Ethiopia’s decentralized administration systems, well-established institutional and organizational arrangements were recognized as valid inputs for these commitments. Additionally, with reference to national ownership of the SDGs, four focus of engagement are being stressed. These are: mainstreaming the SDGs into the Growth and Transformation II; inclusive engagement and participation of all actors and stakeholders in the preparation and implementation, following up and the provision of annual progress reviews of the SDGs-Integrated GTP II; additional allocation of financial resources; and effective coordination of SDGs-integrated GTP II implementation both at the federal and regional level.  These are all concrete evidences for strong national ownership of the SDGs by Ethiopian Government.

The report also praised Ethiopia’s early performance in some of the SDGs, including the first three: End poverty in all its forms everywhere; End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture; and Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. It also noted progress in Goals No. 5: Attain gender equality, empower women and girls everywhere; No. 9: Promote sustainable industrialization; and No. 14: Attain conservation and sustainable use of marine resources, oceans and seas.

In this connection, speaking at the discussion on “Accelerating Inclusive and Sustainable Development in Landlocked Developing Countries through Structural Transformation: Pursuing Policy at the Nexus of Infrastructure and Industrialization” at the United Nations Security Council last week, Mrs. Hirut Zemene, State Minister of Foreign Affairs, shared Ethiopia’s experiences on economic transformation and industrialization. Among the major areas on which she briefed the council was Ethiopia’s tangible progress in the renewable energy sector. Ethiopia now aims to redouble its efforts to increase national electric power generation capacity from 4,270 MW to 17,000 MW by 2020, in line with the country’s Green Economy Climate Resilient Strategy. Noting that inclusive and sustainable industrialization is crucial for poverty reduction, economic growth, job creation and structural transformation, the State Minister underlined that building a resilient infrastructure would also contribute to accelerate an industrialization process as well as enhancing productive capacity.

State Minister Hirut indicated while Ethiopia fully recognized that the SDGs were interlinked and indivisible, SDG 9 was among the goals to which it was giving priority. She also underlined that Ethiopia was pursuing an integrated industrial development strategy with a clear vision of becoming an African manufacturing hub by 2025. She stressed the country was fully integrating SDG 9 in the Growth and Transformation Plan II (2015-2020). Taking into consideration the country’s comparative advantages, she noted that special attention was being given to labor-intensive and light-manufacturing sectors, such as agro-processing, leather and textiles. Speaking about the challenges to implementation of the SDGs, she noted these included both lack of funding and capacity in the development of industrialization and infrastructure. Ethiopia’s solution, she emphasized, was advocacy of public and private partnerships and expansion of Foreign Direct Investment in line with other priorities.

Ethiopian Government’s effort to stem corruption stays on track

An article from A Week in the Horn, issue of 4 August 2017 (link)

As part of the current political reform agenda, the government of Ethiopia is continuing its comprehensive anti-corruption drive, taking concrete measures and steps to root out officials involved in corruption and abuse of power at different levels of leadership throughout the administration. In addition to the arrest of government officials, the latest anti-corruption measures have targeted businesses and brokers involved in corruption. The latest steps in the anti-corruption drive have involved the arrest of a total of 48 government officials, business people and brokers suspected of corruption during the last week. The campaign headed by the newly established Federal Police Investigation Office, operating under the Federal Police Commission, has spearheaded and expedited the anti-corruption drive to hold government officials involved in corruption accountable. Overall, the campaign has so far meant the arrest and prosecution of hundreds of officials since January 2017.

The Federal Police Investigation Office is specifically tasked with the responsibility of investigating special corruption cases, and is mandated to investigate individuals and organizations suspected of engaging in corruption. To carry out its investigation, the Office has deployed information technology mechanisms to allow participation of the public generally through whistle blowing where appropriate or through the provision of information to tip-off investigators about possible corruption. The Office has the considerable objective of reining in corruption as well as encouraging and deepening transparency throughout the government bureaucracy while conducting public business.

According to Government Communication Minister, Dr. Negeri Lencho, the Government is determined to carry forward its anti-corruption drive to detain any officials and businesspeople or any others suspected of corruption. The Minister, speaking to journalists last week, noted that the battle against corruption and rent-seeking behavior was a central part of the government’s reform agenda. It has the objective of fostering a culture of transparency and accountability at all levels of leadership. Dr. Negeri, recalling that abuse of government position and power through theft and corruption, was a central element at the heart of the Government’s “deep reform” program that started in January, noted that the reform had successfully encouraged active public participation. And in order to accelerate this anti-corruption drive, the Minister urged the public to provide information on corrupt officials to the Democratic Centers that have been set up.

Getachew Ambaye, the Attorney-General, also speaking to journalists last week, detailed that 42 of the suspects had been arrested on suspicion of alleged embezzlement of 1.358 billion birr from the Federal Roads Authority; 1.21 billion birr from the Ethiopian Sugar Corporation; 1.1 billion birr from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Cooperation; and over 41 million birr from the Addis Ababa housing development project office. Additional suspects were from the Tendaho Sugar Factory and the Ethiopian Roads Construction Corporation. The Attorney-General revealed that the government took these measures based on the basis of reports from the offices of the Federal and the Addis Ababa City Auditor-Generals, from tips collected from employees and from the public. A study undertaken by the Government had also provided further evidence for the measures taken, he said.

These arrests are a part of the Government’s wide-ranging anti-corruption effort to build a clean government responsive to the needs and aspirations of the people as well as provide good governance and control corruption and other mal-administrative practices. The campaign is also aimed to add further momentum to the continued growth of the country’s economy by addressing the misconduct of government officials who have pursued their own benefit by taking personal advantage from pro-poor Government programs. The campaign to deal with problems of corruption and inefficient governance will improve the country’s economic and social prospects by putting social justice, economic development, democratization and harmony at the center of its future trajectory

The strengthening of the anti-corruption drive along with other governmental steps for reform gives voice to the demands and questions raised by the public following the protests, disturbances and unrest witnessed last year in some parts of the country, and it also provides answers. The measures calling for good governance provide the opportunity to shape people-centric values in the government leadership structures and place a democratic culture at the center of administration and government. It also demonstrates that the loud calls for political reform made at the beginning of this fiscal year are now being given practical expression with the demands of the people at the forefront. The most recent development underlines the fresh impetus being given to replace bad governance, leadership inefficiency and official misconduct with real development-oriented action, efficient performance and an effective results-oriented public service.

Ethiopia lifts state of emergency

On the 4th of August 2017, the House of Peoples’ Representatives (HPR) of Ethiopia lifted the state of emergency imposed on the 8th of October 2016 and effective for the past ten months.

Ethiopia declared a six-month state of emergency following the security problems occurred in some parts of the country.

On 29th of March 2017, the House extended it by additional four months.

The Amhara regional State’s dynamic march towards industrialisation

This article was originally published in the 7th issue (July 2017) of The Ethiopian Messenger, the quarterly magazine of the Embassy of Ethiopia in Brussels.

The rich natural resources and investment incentives of the Amhara Region are transforming the structure of the economy, in a process that is expected to create thousands of local jobs.

A region rich in natural resources

The Amhara region, one of the nine regional states of Ethiopia, is located in north-western Ethiopia and has an estimated total population of 22 million inhabitants. The region has enormous potential both in land and water resources: in addition to its geographical areas of 171,000 km2, Amhara is the source of several major rivers, including Ethiopia’s largest inland body of water, Lake Tana, which is the source of the Blue Nile river, offering opportunities for irrigation development and hydroelectric power generation.

Amhara is one of the most fertile region of the country, with total rainfalls varying from 300 mm to 2,000 mm and rich in natural resources like gold, opal, coal and limestone. The region is further gifted with varied types of topography including plains, gorges, plateaus, hills and mountains, three major agricultural climatic zones (highland, semi- highland and lowland) and has several agro-ecological zones suitable for agricultural activities.

Amhara’s tourism sector is also booming: several of the UNESCO recorded heritages and natural tourism sites of the country are located there, including the Simien Mountain National Park, the famous Lalibela hock-hewn churches, Fasil Castel and the Lake Tana monasteries.

Abundant investment opportunities

Besides the Federal government investment incentives, the Amhara regional state offers additional incentives to promote investment that includes granting land freely to investors, power availabilities and providing investors with the necessary infrastructures for their activities. Furthermore, a regional investors forum supports and resolves the difficulties encountered by investors as they expand their investment activities in the region. Investors should also consider the cheap labour available in the region.

Agriculture, manufacturing, mining, energy, tourism, social sector and infrastructure are major areas of potential investment. The vast unused arable land and sustainable rainfalls, especially in the western corridor of the region, offers major potential for agribusiness investments. The various climate zone with diverse agro- ecological zones are suitable for the production of many types of agricultural products including cereals, pulses, spices, fruits, vegetables, and flowers and other commercial crops. According to several researches, the region is rich in livestock, fishery, horticulture, natural gum and incense, forest and forest products.

In the manufacturing sector, the region possesses enormous potentials in agro-processing industries such as the processing and preserving of grains pulses, fruits and vegetables, meat and milk product, manufacturing of sugar and brewery, the mining sector and hydropower. Recently, investments have been growing in the region, mainly for the expansion of the domestic and international industrial activities.

Kombolcha Industrial Park in the Amhara Region

Initiatives to boost industrialization

The Amhara regional government is working tirelessly to create a conducive environment for business and investment opportunities, exploit the region’s natural resources for economic development and transform the economic structure of the region by fostering industrialization. The main objective of the recent industrial initiatives all aim at creating job opportunities for the youth and address the demand of the people for a fair and shared economic growth the country.

To achieve this objective, the Amhara regional state launched the Abay Industrial Development Share Company, a public-private company established with four billion Birr (160 million Euro) registered capital that will spearhead several mega projects in the Amhara Regional State. Established in line with the country’s Second Growth and Transformation Plan (2015-2020), the company has conducted feasibility studies on several industrial sectors regarding the availability of raw materials and the domestic and export market potential of their products. Based on the results, it was decided that cement, metal, wood and textile factories will be built in the major cities in the region. The first project, a cement plant, is currently being constructed near the town of Dejen, in an area rich in mineral resources used for cement production. The factory will cost 7.5 billion Birr and is expected to produce 5,000 quintals per day and to create 1,690 job opportunities for young people of the region.

A 2-billion Birr metal factory that will create 286 new jobs will also be established in the regional capital city at Bahir Dar, with a production capacity of 300,000 tons. Two wood production factories will be founded in the cities of Debre Tabor and Debre Berhan, creating 350 jobs, and a textile factory will be also established in the historical city at Gondar, where fine cotton abounds. This factory will cost around 2 billion Birr and will create 2,500 jobs.

Last year, the Amhara Regional State experienced protests mainly driven by young people demanding decent jobs and a fair and shared economic development in the region. Factors such as lack of good governance, the absence of industrial developments, the slow expansion of infrastructure and the delaying of federal mega projects like the Megech Irrigation project were identified as the root causes that pushed escalate the protests in major cities in the region. This is why the Amhara regional administration went beyond the federal efforts to mobilize public and private companies, individuals and development associations resources to expand industrial activities, create job opportunities and promote the economic development of the region and the country at large.

Given the Amhara Regional State’s vast natural resources and cheap labour offering ample opportunities for doing business in various agricultural, industrial and manufacture sector, these initiatives are clearly a step in the right direction.