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PM Abiy In Asmara To Further Deepen Ongoing Peace Process

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, arrived in Asmara on July 18 for a two-day working visit.

Eritrea’s President Isaias Afwerki gave a warm welcome to the Prime Minister and his delegation on their arrival at Asmara’s International Airport.

The objective of the visit is to further enhancement of the all-rounded cooperation between the two countries as well as regional and other matters of mutual interest.

Prime Minister Abiy and President Isaias Afwerki held talks at State House on the same day.

The discussion focused on further deepening the ongoing vibrant peace process and all-rounded cooperation between the two countries on the basis of the five-point Joint Declaration of Peace and Friendship signed on 9 July 2018.

The two leaders further agreed to broaden the positive ramifications of the peace process and robust cooperation underway to the Horn.

Accompanied by President Isaias, Prime Minister Dr Abiy and his entourage visited several development projects and construction work on the Nefasit-Decamhare highway.

Ethiopia to Apply 90 Percent Tariff Liberalization for Members of AfCFTA

Ethiopia has agreed to liberalize 90 percent of its tariff for members the of African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced.

Hirut Zemene, Ethiopian State Minister of Foreign Affairs, said Ethiopia, within the coming 15 years, will scale back 90 percent of tariffs for members of AfCFTA. The State Minister further noted Ethiopia made the decision after negotiations that lasted two years.

Ms Hirut added that existing conditions are well considered in the tariff liberalization, and Ethiopia’s national economic advantage remains maintained.

Woinshet Tadesse (Ambassador), Ethiopia’s Permanent Representative to the African Union, remarked that being part of AfCFTA will help Ethiopia develop industries that could create more jobs for the unemployed while stabilizing the market for consumers. She also noted that the move helps create strong industries in Africa, which might even the continent’s competitive edge in the international market. AfCFTA will create economic integration and social solidarity among member states, she pointed out.

The tariff liberalization for AfCFTA member states will commence from July 1, 2020, onwards, it was learned, and it will be based on law and regulation.

Construction of GERD Jumps over 67 Percent

The construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) has jumped over 67 percent, according to the Office of the National Council for the Coordination of Public Participation.

Briefing the media on July 3, Deputy General Manager of the Construction of GERD, Ephrem Woldekidan said the construction of the dam is being carried out effectively since the obstacles were effectively removed.  

The construction of the main dam has reached 80 percent and of flood outlets 96 percent, he added.

According to Ephrem, the total average of the construction is now 67.9 percent.

He  said the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam will start the first phase generation of power in 2021 and the project will be finalized at the end of 2023.

Ethiopian Human Rights Commission Gets New Chief

Dr. Daniel Bekele has been appointed as Commissioner of the Ethiopia Human Rights Commission (EHRC), replacing Dr. Addisu Gebregziabher.

In its regular session held on July 2, the House of People’s Representatives (HPR) picked Dr. Daniel to lead the Commission from 88 shortlisted candidates.

Prior to his current appointment, Dr Daniel Bekele was the senior director for Africa Advocacy at Human Rights Watch (HRW) where he has previously served as the Executive Director of the Africa Division.

He has also served as the legal department director and secretary of the board for United Insurance Co., and he managed Action Aid Ethiopia’s policy research and advocacy departments.

Dr Daniel has extensively consulted with non-governmental organizations including Oxfam, ARTICLE 19, Freedom House, and PACT, as well as with USAID and the World Bank.

He has worked in varying capacities with numerous civil society organizations, and led the national-level campaign for the Global Call to Action against Poverty.

Ethiopia eyes 9.2% economic growth for 2019-20

The Ethiopian government is expecting a 9.2% economic growth for the 2019-20 fiscal year that begins this month and ends in June next year, compared to 7.7% the previous year, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced on July 1.

“The economy will grow by 9.2% for the coming financial year,” he said while addressing parliament. In a report published in March, rating agency Moody’s observed that growth in the country should be around 8% in the coming years thanks to huge infrastructure investments.

Moody’s said infrastructure investments were essential economy boosters in Ethiopia between 2009 and 2018 when the country’s gross domestic product rose 10% a year between the two periods.

The economy grew at 7.7 % in 2010 (2017/18) as well as at 8.6% both in 2008 (2015/16) and in 2009 (2016/17). 5 billion birr has been collected in revenue in the last 11 months, a 10% increase compared to the previous year.

More than 11 million people are currently jobless, and the figure increases by two million each year. Last year the government created jobs for about 1.4 million people, he said.

Foreign direct investment (FDI), loans and remittance increased by 20% compared to the same period last fiscal year, while the mounts deposited by all banks increasing by 22%. Loans distributed by the banks increased by 35%, he added.

Since Abiy Ahmed was appointed Prime Minister in April last year, he has succeeded in ending feud with neighboring Eritrea and easing political and social tensions.

Sudan’s military council accepts AU-Ethiopia proposal

Sudan’s ruling military council has said a proposal submitted by the African Union (AU) and Ethiopia received on June 27 is suitable for the resumption of talks with the opposition on a transition to democracy.

The generals of the ruling Transitional Military Council (TMC) and the opposition coalition have been wrangling for weeks over what form Sudan’s transitional government should take after the military deposed long-time president Omar al-Bashir on April 11.

Mediators led by the AU and Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed have since been trying to broker a return to direct talks between the two sides.

On June 27, they presented a joint proposal to both sides after the TMC rejected a previous Ethiopian proposal and called for mediation efforts to be unified.

A draft of the AU-Ethiopia proposal suggested few changes from a previous Ethiopian plan that a coalition of protesters has endorsed.

A number of points have emerged around it, but in general it is a suitable proposal for negotiations to reach a final agreement leading to the establishment of the institutions of a transitional rule,” TMC spokesman Lieutenant General Shams al-Din Kabashi said on Friday.

He said the TMC was ready to resume “immediate, serious and honest” negotiations.

The joint proposal provides for a sovereign council that would oversee the transition, made up of seven civilians and seven members of the military with one additional seat reserved for an independent member. The balance of membership of the council had been the sticking point during weeks of talks after al-Bashir’s removal.

However, the make-up of a legislative council would only be decided after the agreement was signed. In previous drafts, the Freedom and Change opposition alliance was to make up two-thirds of that council.

Al-Bashir ruled Sudan for nearly 30 years before he was unseated following a deepening economic crisis and 16 weeks of street protests.

Sudan’s stability is seen as crucial to a volatile region straddling the Middle East and Africa.

Coca-Cola to Invest $300 Million and set up a new factory in Ethiopia

Coca Cola is planning to set up a $ 70 million new factory in Ethiopia as it celebrates its 60th anniversary in the country. According to Burno Pietracci, general manager of the East and Central African Franchise, the Coca Cola Company has decided to expand its outlay and promote Ethiopia as a destination for other potential foreign investors.

The beverage firm and its shareholders are also planning to invest USD 300 million in the country in the coming five years. The new plant will have a manufacturing capacity of 70,000 cases per day.

The company broke ground on the new plant on June 20. Located in the town of Sebeta, 25 kilometers from Addis Ababa, it will be the biggest bottler and the fourth of its kind in Ethiopia once it is finalized early next year.

The fifth plant is planned to be set up in Hawassa, capital of the Southern Regional State.

The first Coca-Cola bottling plant was established in Addis Ababa in 1959 with a capacity of bottling 36,000 plastic bottles (PET) per hour, while the second was installed in Dire Dawa in 1965.

Reports said that East African Bottling Share Company (EABSC) launched “vision 2020” where it will become energy self-sufficient; and during the same year, the company set plans to reach 100 million unit cases, that will put Ethiopia on par with Egypt and South Africa.

Coca Cola entered the Ethiopian market in 60 years ago and the company is currently stated to employ 2,200 local jobs.

Ethiopia has become a haven for most foreign investors with many companies relocating their manufacturing plants from countries such as Turkey, India, and China to Ethiopia.

EU To Provide €40b In Grants To Help Create Jobs In Africa

The European Union Commission fully supports the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) and is proposing a 40 billion Euro package to attract investments that would create at least 10 million jobs in Africa.

This was revealed by Ambassador Ranieri Sabatucci, the EU Ambassador to the African Union, in an opening address to a two-day Horn of Africa AfCFTA forum focusing on the pharmaceutical industry.

“As was highlighted by EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, in his state of the union speech in September last year, referring to the AfCFTA, he expressed the wish that the long term perspective is to create a comprehensive continent-to-continent free trade agreement between the EU and Africa,” he said.

He said to prepare for this, economic partnership agreements, free trade agreements, “including the deep and comprehensive free trade areas and others in the countries north of Africa and other trade issues with the EU should be exploited to the greatest extent as building blocks to the benefit of the AfCFTA.”

The ambition is to increase African exports and to attract investment, including in the manufacturing and processing sectors and to encourage the creation of regional value chains through flexible rules of origin.

“To support this, a massive support of 40 billion Euros of grants under the new Africa-European Alliance for Jobs and Growth is proposed as from 2021 to 2027 to, among others, attract investments that would create 10 million jobs in Africa,” he said, adding the EU will continue to increase its support to Africa in that regard.

Mr. Sabatucci said the AfCFTA has an extraordinary potential to be economically transformative for Africa by creating the world’s largest integrated common market since the establishment of the WTO.

“Our support for the AfCFTA has a lot to do with our history. It was through the establishment of the free trade area and customs union and the single market that the last 60 years have become the longest period of peace, economic growth, and prosperity in our continent,” he said, adding real work begins now since the AFCTA came into force on 30 May.

Mr. Sabatucci said that a stable Horn of Africa was important for regional and Africa’s economic integration. Speaking at the same forum, Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Executive Secretary, Vera Songwe, said that Africa’s pharmaceutical industry was a good example of what the AfCFTA can deliver for the continent.

Worth $20.8 billion in 2013, the industry is predicted to be $64 billion in the next ten years, creating over 16 million jobs in the process, according to a press release issued by ECA.

Ms. Songwe said this would also lead to the creation of regional and continental giants and prosperity.

“The AfCFTA is an economic development program anchored around creating regional and continental champions, accelerating infrastructure development, energy and harmonizing Africa’s integration platforms. We must now move with speed to implement the AfCFTA and reap the benefits of the agreement,” she said.

Ms. Songwe said East Africa with at least 600 million people was one of the fastest growing regions on the continent, but that growth has not yet translated into poverty reduction and prosperity.

She emphasized that it is vitally essential for African countries, especially those in the Horn, to maintain peace and stability as a prerequisite for strengthening private-sector development and boosting intra-African trade.

“We believe that trade and integration will be one of the solutions to the challenges in the region,” she said.

Thousands of Mourners Gathered in Addis Ababa, Bahir Dar, and Mekelle to Pay Tribute for Slained officials

Thousands of mourners gathered at the Millennium Hall in Addis Ababa on June 25 to pay tribute for the Chief of Staff of Ethiopian Defense Forces, General Seare Mekonnen and his associate retired Major General Gezae Abera.

The memorial ceremony was conducted at a federal level at Millennium Hall in the presence of President Sahlework Zewdie, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Speakers of the Houses of Peoples’ and Federation, religious leaders, Ministers and senior civil and military officials and the public.

Prayer and benediction were held at the hall by Abuna Matthias, Archbishop of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

On June 22, three top officials of the Amhara Regional State were killed when they were on a meeting in the city of Bahir Dar in an assault allegedly conspired and orchestrated by the former Head of Peace and Security of the region, Brigadier General Asaminew Tsige.

General Seare and Major General Gezae were assassinated at the home of the Chief of Staff by his guard in Addis Ababa, after a few hours of the attack in Bahir Dar.

Asaminew Tsige, who was suspected of orchestrating the failed “coup attempt” on Amhara Regional State, and killing of regional and federal officials, was shot dead on Monday in the vicinity of Bahir Dar City.

Asaminew had been jailed for seven years for alleged coup plot and was among thousands of prisoners who set free on amnesty following the sweeping reforms led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed recently.

General Seare Mokonen was born in 1962 in North Western Zone of Tigray Regional State and survived by a son and daughter.

The funeral ceremony for officials of the Amhara regional state and senior army generals was held at St. Gabriel churches in the cities of Bahir Dar and Mekelle respectively on June 26 in the afternoon.

The burial ceremony in the city of Bahir Dar was held in the presence of Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen, Ministers, higher officials, members of the families of the deceased and government representatives from Eritrea and Sudan.

On the funeral ceremony, Deputy Prime Minister, Demeke Mekonnen said the heinous killing of the leaders is a barbaric act that is incompatible with the stature of the peoples in Amhara Region and that of entire Ethiopia.

He called upon the peoples in the region to stand together and work towards the fulfillment of the vision upheld by the martyrs.

The funeral service for the slain Chief of Staff, General Seare and his associate retired General Gezaie was held in the city of Mekelle, the capital of Tigrai Regional State on June 25.

Deputy Chief Administrator of Tigrai Regional State, Debretsion Gebremichael, on the burial ceremony said that the death of the heroes does not hamper the development and democratic journey in the country.
He called upon the public to sustain the vision upheld by the deceased heroes.