Ethiopia to open up most state-owned firms

Ethiopia is open to selling off a host of state-owned firms, partially or entirely, as part of major economic reforms designed to “unleash the potential of the private sector”, its information minister said on 18 July.

Ahmed Shide said the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, which has announced a slew of shake-ups since coming into office in April, would retain majority holdings in the state-run airline, logistics, telecoms and energy companies.

Everything else, from hotels and sugar farming to cement production, could be up for sale, with the exception of the tightly controlled financial services sector, whose fate was yet to be decided, he said.

“The main objective of this is to encourage private sector development in the country,” Ahmed said, making clear that the nation was turning the page on decades of reliance on the state to drive economic growth.

“The role of the private sector is very fundamental. We did a lot of state development projects. Now we need to unleash the potential of the private sector,” he said.

Ahmed did not give a time-frame for the privatisations but said the government was tendering for advice from global business consultancies including McKinsey and PwC.

“The detailed planning is not complete but precautions will be made not to have mistakes,” he said. “So we will do it with caution,” he said.

Having come to power less than four months ago, Abiy has turned the nation on its head with his bold plans to reshape politics and the economy.

Although it has been one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies, Ethiopia’s export sector, mainly garment manufacturing and farming, has struggled to take off. The economy is thus not generating enough dollars to pay for imports.

Kenya’s Safaricom is poised to roll out its popular M-Pesa mobile money service, sources say, raising hopes the technology that has changed the face of Kenya’s economy since 2007 will do the same in Ethiopia.

“It’s really going to alleviate their liquidity constraints,” said Jacques Nel of Cape Town-based consultancy NKC African Economics. “People will be able to start using this electronic currency and won’t have to waste time looking for birr or foreign currency,” Nel said.


Ethiopian Diaspora Trust Fund ready to start collecting funds

Ethiopian Diaspora Trust Fund, Ethiopian prime minister’s initiative, is now ready to collect funds from Ethiopian Diaspora to support development efforts in Ethiopia.

The government of Ethiopia has announced the bank account number of the Ethiopia Diaspora Trust Fund.

Two weeks ago Prime Minister Dr Abiy Ahmed announced his government’s plan to establish a Diaspora trust fund to finance social services in the country.

He requested the Diaspora community to save a dollar a day to support development projects in Ethiopia, such as education and health services.

According to the Office of the Prime Minister, the account number is 1000255726725 and is active now.

International Money Transfer Agencies like Western Union and Money Gram are to be used to help the trust fund collect money from Ethiopians.

An estimated three million Ethiopians live in different parts of the world including in Europe, North America, and Australia. In 2016, Ethiopia earned over US$4 billion dollars in remittance from Ethiopians living abroad.

Here are details of the bank account:


Ethiopia to reopen embassy in Asmara

Ethiopia will also reopen its embassy in neighbouring Eritrea at a yet to be announced date, the country’s Minister for Government Communications Affairs, Ahmed Shide, said in a tweet.

The Minister cited an official of the foreign affairs ministry as stating that aside from the reopening of the embassy in Asmara, Ethiopia was also working to fully implement the terms of a recently signed peace deal between the two nations.

Eritrea opened its embassy in Addis Ababa on Monday 16 July after the facility was closed down two decades ago when the two countries engaged in a border war that killed thousands.

The reopening was witnessed by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean president Isaias Afwerki – it was part of Afwerki’s engagement on the last day of his historic visit / his return to Addis Ababa after two decades.

Abiy made a historic visit to Asmara with the two leaders signing the five-point agreement chiefly among them, ending the state of war that existed between them.

Afwerki’s trip was to reciprocate the gesture of Abiy to Asmara. Both leaders were very well received on their respective trips.

Already, Ethiopia’s national carrier is to start daily flights to Asmara. The airline is also set to take a 20% stake in Eritrean Airlines according to reports.

Ambassador Redwan Hussien has been appointed as ambassador extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ethiopia to Eritrea.

Prior to his current appointment, he was the ambassador of Ethiopia to Ireland.

Source: Africanews

First commercial flight in 20 years leaves Ethiopia for Eritrea

The first commercial flight to Eritrea in two decades departed this morning from Addis Ababa, barely a week after the two nations ended their conflict following a whirlwind peace process.

Ethiopian Airlines said that flight ET0312 to Asmara had departed Bole International Airport, after a ceremony inaugurating the historic flight.

“This day marks a unique event in the history of Ethiopia and Eritrea,” the airline’s chief executive Tewolde GebreMariam said at the ceremony.

Overwhelming demand saw the African aviation giant operate two flights within 15 minutes of each other.

“The fact that we are taking two flights at a time shows the eagerness of the people,” said GebreMariam.

Champagne was served to passengers in all classes, who were also given roses shortly before take-off.

Once a province of Ethiopia, Eritrea seceded in 1993 after a long independence struggle. A row over the demarcation of the shared border triggered a brutal 1998-2000 conflict which left 80,000 people dead before evolving into a bitter cold war.

In a surprise move, Ethiopia’s new reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed paid a historic visit to Eritrea, during which he and President Isaias Afwerki declared an official end to the war. Afwerki reciprocated with a state visit to Ethiopia just days later.

Eritrea reopens embassy in Addis Ababa

Eritrea reopened its embassy in Ethiopia today in further evidence of a rapid thaw between two countries that a week ago ended two decades of military stalemate over a border war in which tens of thousands died.

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrea’s President Isaias Afwerki re-opened the embassy in the capital Addis Ababa in a brief ceremony. One week ago the leaders declared their “state of war” over and President Isaias spent the weekend in Ethiopia.

The rapprochement could help Ethiopia, a landlocked country of 100 million people with the largest economy in East Africa, by making access to Eritrea’s ports possible. Better ties could help Eritrea overcome decades of relative isolation.

The leaders jointly raised the Eritrean flag inside a newly refurbished embassy as a military band played Eritrea’s anthem. They then toured the building and looked at its furniture and two rusting cars that belonged to Eritrea’s last ambassador.

In a tweet Eritrea’s information minister, Yemane Meskel described the reopening of the embassy as “yet another milestone in the robust and special ties of peace and friendship both countries are cultivating with earnestness in these momentous times.”

Isaias left Addis Ababa to return home soon after re-opening the embassy.

Eritrea president hails unity with Ethiopia on historic visit

Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki pledged to resolve his country’s dispute with Ethiopia on Saturday in a historic visit to Addis Ababa aimed at cementing peace less than a week after the nations declared an end to two decades of conflict.

President Isaias arrived in the Ethiopian capital just five days after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed visited Eritrea as part of a peace process aimed at ending years of animosity between the neighbours.

He started his three-day visit at Addis Ababa’s airport, where he and PM Abiy strode down a red carpet as a brass band played and traditional dancers cheered. The leaders then drove into the city on a road lined with thousands of people dressed in white shawls and waving palm fronds as Ethiopian and Eritrean flags flew side-by-side from lamp posts.

Scenes similar to what was accorded PM Abiy during his historic visit to the Eritrean capital, Asmara, were seen. Thousands lined the streets from the airport to the presidential palace cheering and joyfully welcoming the visiting president. Afterwards, Isaias toured an industrial park in Hawassa.

The two leaders shared laughs and hugs at an official lunch on Saturday as PM Abiy said his counterpart was “beloved, respected and missed by the Ethiopian people”. “We are no longer people of two countries. We are one,” President Isaias Afwerki told political and cultural figures gathered in a palace built during Ethiopia’s imperial days. “We’ll go forward together.”

On Sunday evening, the two men addressed a gathering of residents at Addis Ababa’s Millenium Hall. As they entered the entered the Millennium Hall on Sunday evening, Abiy and Isaias held hands and waved at the crowd, prompting loud cheers. Musicians performed under portraits of the two leaders.

“We have chosen to tread a path and work together for development, prosperity and peace, having overcome a conspiracy of hatred, revenge and destruction,” President Isaias told the audience.

Eritrean President to pay 3-day official visit to Ethiopia

At the invitation of Prime Minister Dr Abiy Ahmed, Eritrean President Isaias Afeworki will arrive in Ethiopia on Saturday 14 July for a three days state visit, the latest step in an unprecedented diplomatic thaw between the former rivals that is ending one of Africa’s longest-running conflicts.

Eritrea’s information minister, Yemane Gebremeskel, confirmed the visit on Twitter, saying it will “add momentum to the joint march for peace and cooperation.” President Isaias last visited Ethiopia in 1996.

The visit will strengthen the friendship and ties between the two countries, according to the Office of the Prime Minister of Ethiopia.

“We thank HE President Isaias for honouring us with a visit & we welcome him warmly!” the Office said in a statement today.

PM Dr Abiy paid a two-day state visit to Eritrea last weekend.

Ethiopian Airlines also announced this week the finalization of preparations to resume daily flights to Asmara as of July 18, 2018, with the most technologically advanced commercial aircraft, the Boeing 787.

According to Office of the Prime Minister, all holders of Ethiopian and Eritrean passports can travel to each other countries and will be granted visa by the respective authorities upon arrival.

However, other nationalities need to secure a visa in advance.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s first 100 days

This article describes the stellar accomplishments made in the past 100 days since the swearing-in of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

1. Fostered Internal Stability

Today marks the 100th day of the premiership of Dr Abiy Ahmed. His performance so far can only be rated as outstanding on all fronts. The popularity of the numerous measures he has taken so far and the speed with which each of them is delivered are nothing short of a miracle. The PM has done in this short period what many wouldn’t even imagine getting done in years. His name has now become synonymous with optimism for an overwhelming majority of Ethiopians. International News Outlets such as the BBC have described him as “one of the most dynamic and charismatic politicians to emerge in modern Africa.”

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power right in the middle of the worst political and social crisis that hit the country in decades. Due to popular unrest hitting major regions in Ethiopia, the government was forced to declare martial law twice in two years’ time since 2016. Demonstrations, roadblocks and conflicts flared up in almost all major urban and rural areas. Violence reached the outskirts of the capital, Addis Ababa, a city of at least 5 million, severely limiting day-to-day public affairs. Despite EPRDF’s desperate attempt to curb unrest, the unrest finally culminated in the resignation of its chairperson and the election of PM Abiy Ahmed through a tightly contested inter-party election.

1.1 Inspired the Nation

Even before coming to the helm of the country’s political power, Abiy Ahmed was known for his charisma. He was frequently quoted saying “Kal yigedlal, Kal yadinal” which roughly translates to “A word can kill, a word can save”. He thoroughly acted on this belief in his first 100 days, starting with his inauguration speech at the parliament. His inspirational quotes were carried far and wide throughout the nation. His words have become ubiquitous adorning window panes and bumper stickers all over Ethiopia. His message of unity through diversity and revival of the “Ethiopiawinet” (Ethiopianism) is widely celebrated, and his notion of “medemer” (synergy) has become a colloquial word. His frank and transparent manners, the way in which he spoke of his mother, wife and all women at his swearing-in ceremony not only stole the hearts of many but also gave away signs of the seriousness of the change that is taking place in Ethiopia. The phrases he used such as “When alive, we are Ethiopians, and in death, we become the land that is Ethiopia” are favourites among patriotic Ethiopians who are longing for a message of unity and solidarity in the midst of ethnic rivalry apparent for the past several years.

1.2 First-hand discussion with the people

PM Abiy Ahmed made stabilising the troubled nation his primary objective. He made regional visits and discussed with the community on matters that are important to them. He also delivered messages of solidarity in languages, customs and attires akin to the specific regions, raising issues that were taboo in Ethiopian politics yet very reflective of the local need. He kicked off his visit with the most affected areas in the last three years of anti-government demonstrations such as Ambo, Bale, Dembi-dollo and Gondar and continued to other regions such as Tigray, Hawassa, and Afar to experience first-hand the state of affairs in the different regions to ensure all voices are heard. His message of peace and unity was delivered in such an out-of-the-box and disarming way that it brought about a tangible impact on the nations and nationalities embraced in the country.

1.3 Expanded Political Space

Despite efforts exerted to widen the ever-narrowing post-2005 political space by the leading party EPRDF; the first tangible steps were actually undertaken in the last 100 days. This was evident with the release and pardon of political leaders. He lifted bans on political parties, website and various media outlets that were deemed terrorists and affiliates. and even invited them to operate locally. These ground-breaking changes helped in convincing the opposition and the sizeable Ethiopian diaspora that the change was not cosmetic but genuine and is bringing many onboard to participate in the country’s affairs. Furthermore, a draft pardon proclamation has been submitted to parliament for approval that will streamline the way the government releases wrongly accused and imprisoned individuals and organizations. Previous anti-terrorism, cyber-terrorism and other sweeping proclamations are put under revision by the newly appointed attorney general to pave the way for a less intrusive government and greater democratic reform.

The Prime Minister’s bold defense of his reforms in front of the House of People’s representatives went as far as blaming some within the government itself for terrorising the Ethiopian people, and firing and reshuffling of a series of untouchable civil servants. He is laying out a clear policy direction towards good-governance and accountability. Consequently, even state-owned/affiliated media such as EBC/ETC/Fana started broadcasting various rights abuses including in the criminal justice system. Such investigative reporting by the press is paving the way for those in the security and prison systems to be held accountable and brought to justice.

Another proof of the new administration’s move to widen the democratic space is the virtually nation-wide rallies organised by the local communities themselves in support of the new pro-democracy reforms. Demonstrators carried banners and flags of their choice while reflecting varied political views. However, all the demonstration were markedly peaceful and pro-reform except for an attack that killed few people and wounded many.

1.4 Reformed the Security Sector

Police, the military, the internal security, correctional facilities and other within the military-security establishment within the country were the ones that suffered from a serious lack of public confidence. Reforming these institutions in a top-down approach was a vital step towards restoring public trust and stability. It was along these lines that Dr Abiy Ahmed started by replacing old-guard veterans within these institutes in rapid succession. This was done in a respectful manner to ensure continuity in accordance with state protocol and full-honour retirement to the likes of the head of defence, head of security and former prime minister.

2. Fostered Diplomacy and Foreign Relations

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has markedly departed from the usual trend of conducting diplomacy within the horn and Africa. His “win-win” approach towards neighboring diplomacy, while rejecting the previous decades’ old trend of the typical “us-versus-them” and “allies vs. enemies” seems to work. In that regard, his biggest wins include putting an end to the “no peace – no war” situation with Eritrea that persisted for decades, improving regional economic ties and cooperation which has now created a huge movement for his nomination for the upcoming Nobel Peace Prize.

2.1 Improved Ethio-Eritrea Relations

20 years ago, the relations between the two countries deteriorated culminating in one of Africa’s bloodiest war. Since then “no war-no peace” stance between the two countries costed human lives and damaged both economies. Previously Eritrea maintained there would be no negotiations until Ethiopian troops pulled out of Eritrean as per the decision of the international boundary commission. However, this black curtain between the two countries has been shred and overtures have been made as evident with the recent visit of high-level delegates from Eritrea and the return visit to Asmara, Eritrea by the Prime Minister of Ethiopia. The parade throughout the 45km drive from the Airport to Asmara Palace showered the Ethiopian delegates with unprecedented public support and love.

2.2 Prioritized Security in the Horn of Africa

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed travelled to all the neighbouring countries in past three months and met with South Sudan’s President and opposition leaders in Addis Ababa. As they say in political science, “Every country has the right to choose their allies. However, no one can choose their neighbours”. With this logic in mind, the Prime Minister has given priority in deepening diplomatic relations with neighbouring countries in the horn of Africa.

2.3 Signed New Agreements

Despite the fact that the Ethiopian government has been working towards the adoption of a principle of giving and taking an approach with its neighbours, the negotiations over the past 100 days were far-reaching. A deal was made to develop and operate a shipping port in Djibouti and Ethiopia to extend stakes to Djibouti in the telecom and other mutually agreed infrastructures. These measures benefit Ethiopia from an economic and political standpoint in the long run.

2.4 Took a stand on the Red-Sea Geopolitics

Following the Yemeni civil war, several Arab nations and Iran have been supporting either the ruling government or the rebels. Iran, Qatar, Turkey and Sudan are supporting one team whereas, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt are on the other, making the Horn of Africa a volatile region. These groups have set up some military camps and bases including in Eritrea. Ethiopia did not choose sides for the past years. While this may deem beneficial, the repercussion of not choosing side could be hazardous. Over the last three months, a number of measures have been taken to take a stance. In particular, the visits to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have created an enabling environment for further discussions with Egypt and Eritrea. In addition to the economic burden of the effects of the effects of maritime travel, and the gateway in this area, the internet security of this gateway is immense. Furthermore, if Egypt had succeeded in placing its maritime force in Eritrea, it would have been a significant implication for the sovereignty of Ethiopia. The breakthroughs in the last 100 days to minimise such risks are the closure of the port deal with Eritrea could be beneficial in the long term.

3. Took measures to improve the Economy

Although the economy has been growing for the past ten years, over the past three years, the absence of internal stability and the long-stalled government mega projects were daunting challenges. Furthermore, infrastructure projects demand foreign currency and export capacity did not increase as expected which resulted in a large discrepancy whereby the foreign currency exchange was overcrowded by black market smugglers. As a result of this economic shortfall, jobs have plummeted, especially in the construction sector and the cost of living has increased significantly exacerbated by the increase in unemployed youth. Different activities have been accomplished over the last 100 days to temporarily mitigate these and other economic problems such as by bringing in over 3 Billion Dollars from the United Arab Emirates.

3.1 Engaged with the Private Sector 

Under the premise that the engagement of the private sector is important in the economic reforms that the Prime Minister is aiming for, he has also carried out discussion with the business community at the Sheraton Hotel and the presidential palace on multiple various occasions. The investors inquired clarifications, and the Prime Minister highlighted the roles and responsibilities of the private sector and government to contribute towards the sustainable development of the country.

3.2 Solving Forex Crisis

One of the top issues discussed with the private sector was how to address the shortage of foreign currency. Several short-term measures have been taken to address this shortcoming. The 3 Billion Dollar donation from the United Arab Emirates has also been cited as an example, and the reform in the overall setup of the National Bank of Ethiopia should bring about a lasting change.

3.3 Encouraged Privatization

The Prime Minister announced a program to liberalise the economy and partially or fully privatise state-run firms. This may include selling of shares to foreign investors in large state companies such as Ethiopian Airlines with the intent to bring in hard currency to allow payments on outstanding debts and ease import bottlenecks.

3.4 Took serious measures about Good Governance

Evaluation of planning and implementation of the public sector in many government offices has not been transparent. This problem is evident also at ministerial levels. Prime Minister Abiy mentioned that in addition to the House of People’s Representatives’evaluation, another review would be made open to the general public in the coming fiscal year. Moreover, these government offices will have their plans published on their websites at the beginning of the fiscal year further inculcating transparency and accountability.

3.5 National Budget approved by the House of People’s Representatives

Following the 2010 financial year, the Council of Ministers has approved a budget of 346 billion (915 million 451 thousand 948 birrs) for the year 2011 E.C. (2018/2019 fiscal year). The budget was approved by the House of Peoples’ Representatives. Out of the allocated budget, regular expenditures totalled 91,067,160,000 birrs. The prime minister answered and clarified questions from members of the House during the annual budget presentation which was aired live on national TV. This budget allocation was different in that this administration made its budget with particular emphasis on poverty reduction, attention on not printing money to cover the budget deficit. Promises from donors and external sources have not been included but rather improve tax collection capacity of the government. The 2011E.C. budget was different in that it realised the level of debt burden Ethiopia is experiencing and intended to lower it.

4. Fostered Social Cohesion

4.1. Prime Minister Abiy attended various events and took the opportunity to speak to thousands of youth about “love and forgiveness.” The manner it was delivered was unlike any EPRDF leadership regarding content and delivery and captured the hearts and minds of the Ethiopian youth to actively participate in political and social affairs in the country.

4.2. The prime minister has initiated the effort to reconcile the differences between the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Council and Committee for the Solution of Ethiopian Muslim Affairs. This has been recognised as a major step as the country has embarked on a peaceful, loving, and co-operative journey. Also, the prime minister has also initiated the reconciliation process between the Ethiopian Orthodox Church community at home and abroad.

4.3. Abiy Ahmed in his fourth trip official trip abroad to Saudi Arabia took his entourage to visit Mohammed, the Ethiopian boy who was in a coma for the past twelve years due to medical error and assured his mom and the community they will soon get justice. He also discussed the release and return of Ethiopian prisoners to their country.

4.4. Prime Minister Abiy is known to comfort patients in various hospitals and participate in blood donations drive.

Re-opening roads to Eritrea’s Red Sea ports is a priority for Ethiopia

Ethiopia wants to make the re-opening of two roads connecting it to two of Eritrea’s Red Sea ports a priority in the two nations’ reconciliation process, a government spokesman said on Wednesday 11 July.

In a move that ended a 20-year military stand-off, the Horn of African neighbours agreed on Monday to open embassies, develop ports and resume flights.

The historic reconciliation could transform politics and security in the volatile Horn region, which lies along one of the world’s busiest shipping routes.

Ethiopian government spokesman Ahmed Shide said on Wednesday that the reopening of two critical roads leading to the ports of Assab in Eritrea’s south and Massawa in the north would benefit the whole region.

“The unfolding developments will not only benefit our peoples, but the entire Horn of Africa region will be a part of these developments,” Shide was quoted as saying in an interview published on the Eritrean information ministry’s website.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s chief of staff wrote on Twitter that Ethiopian and Eritrean passport holders would be able to travel to the other country and obtain visas on arrival.

The changes are sweeping away years of hostility and raising hopes in both countries for a lucrative peace dividend.

Access to the ports of Assab and Massawa could greatly help Ethiopia’s push to boost their exports and increase hard currency earnings, analysts say.

Ethiopia And Eritrea Declare End Of War

The leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea signed a “Joint declaration of peace and friendship” on Monday 9 July, a day after a historic summit marked a start to normalisation of ties between the former foes.

“The state of war between Ethiopia and Eritrea has come to an end,” the leaders said in a joint declaration. “A new era of peace and friendship has been opened.”

The Agreement, which specifies five pillars, was signed this morning at State House by President Isaias Afwerki and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

The Joint Declaration states, inter alia, that:

i) The State of war that existed between the two countries has come to an end. A new era of peace and friendship has been ushered;

ii) Both countries will work to promote close cooperation in political, economic, social, cultural and security areas.

iii) Transport, trade and telecommunication ties will be resumed; diplomatic ties and activities renewed;

iv) The border decision will be implemented;

v) Both countries will work together to guarantee regional peace, development and cooperation

“This move opens prospects for real, regional economic integration. Get the economic underpinnings of the region right and you get stability,” said Alex Rondos, the European Union’s special representative for the Horn of Africa.

“There are enormous potential complementarities between the two countries if the recent political advances are consolidated,” said Andrew Mold, who heads the East Africa office of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.