Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister Leads Senior Ministers to UK Investment Forum

Hailemariam Desalegn, Ethiopian deputy prime minister and minister of Foreign Affairs
Hailemariam Desalegn, Ethiopian deputy prime minister and minister of Foreign Affairs

A high-level Ethiopian delegation, led by Hailemariam Desalegn, deputy prime minister and minister of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), is scheduled to leave for London in the first week of June 2011, to participate in the first investment forum between the United Kingdom (UK) and Ethiopia, sources disclosed to Fortune.

Organised by the Ethiopian Embassy in the UK, in cooperation with Developing Markets Associates (DMA) and Africa Matters Ltd (AML), the forum is designed to persuade mainly British investors to do business with Ethiopia.

The UK is not one of the 10 largest export destinations for Ethiopia, although the trade balance last year favoured it with a 28.7 million dollar surplus, data obtained from the Ethiopian Revenues and Customs Authority (ERCA) disclosed.

The UK exported 83.8 million dollars worth of vehicles, books, and insecticides last year, claiming only one per cent of the total merchandise Ethiopia imported, according to the data. It constitutes only 2.2pc of Ethiopia’s total exports made to at least 45 countries, with total revenues of a little over two billion dollars, read the data from the ERCA. Ethiopia sold the UK tanned sheep skin and sesame seeds during the same period worth 55.1 million dollars, according to the ERCA.

Trade delegations from the UK are frequent visitors to Addis Abeba. in February 2010, the largest group to date, comprising 40 business delegates had visited the country.

This will be Ethiopia’s first attempt at sending high profile delegates, including Sufian Ahmed, minister of Finance and Economic Development (MoFED); Mekonnen Manyazewal, minister of Industry (MoI); Sinknesh Ejigu, minister of Mines (MoM); and Tefera Derbew, minister of Agriculture (MoA).

Most of these ministers just returned from a two-week tour to the United States (US), where they had launched a public relations debate in a bid to convince members of the Diaspora to invest in the millennium bonds the federal government recently launched to finance the construction of the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

The Ethiopian Embassy in London, run by Brehanu Kebede, Ethiopia’s ambassador to the UK, has booked a hall for June 9, 2011, in Savoy Place Hotel, sources disclosed.

Among the members of the UK government scheduled to appear at the forum are Myles Wickstead, former British ambassador to Ethiopia, and Henry Bellingham, minister for Africa for the UK.

The forum is planned to have an abundance of speakers, including Teklewold Atnafu, governor of National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE); Abi Woldemeskel, chief of the Federal Investment Authority (FIA); in addition to Amin Abdulkadir and Mekuria Hailemariam, ministers of Works and Urban Development (MoWUD) as well as Tourism and Culture (MoTC).

From the private sector, Teshome Beyene, secretary-general of the Addis Abeba Chamber of Commerce and Sectoral Associations (AACSSA), will make a presentation, while Kenichi Ohashi, country director for Ethiopia and Sudan at the World Bank (WB), will make an appearance, sources disclosed to Fortune.

“All these speakers are to make a case for investing in Ethiopia,” said a diplomatic source based in Addis Abeba.

By TAMRAT G. GIORGIS
FORTUNE STAFF WRITER