On the 6th of March NABC organized a Roundtable session at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in The Hague with H.E. Berhane Gebre-Christos – the State Minister of Foreign Affairs in Ethiopia – and Dutch companies that were invited to this session. The main topics of this meeting were foreign trade and investment in Ethiopia, the benefits of investing in Ethiopia, but also the challenges foreign companies can face when doing business in this country.
H.E. Berhane Gebre-Christos gave an inspiring speech on reasons why companies should invest in Ethiopia. He described the great diversity of Ethiopia – consisting of around 80 different ethnic groups and various religions – and that regardless of this diverse background it is a stable nation. According to the State Minister it is a favorable place for business, not just because of its political stability, but also because of the economic stability and continuous and steady economic growth, the advantageous climate, its central location and it being one of the larger economies of Africa.
According to the State Minister the agricultural sector is thriving in Ethiopia and until 2010, developing agriculture was Ethiopia’s main concern. From 2010 onwards the Ethiopian government added new sectors focusing on manufacturing and industrial growth and currently the main emphasis is to see a rapid growth in Ethiopia’s infrastructure. Furthermore, Ethiopia also wishes to invest in solar energy and other green energies, with the purpose of achieving a net zero carbon emission by 2025. By attracting investors in Ethiopia the government wishes to eradicate poverty and become a middle-income country within the next 8 years.
The State Minister also listened to the concerns of the present companies. For example companies in the agricultural, specifically livestock, sectors indicated that there is no tax return possible in Ethiopia on feed compounds. Another comment pointed out that factories have the ability and space for good production, but they lack skilled people. These concerns were continued in more detailed conversation in private one-on-one meetings between the individual companies and the State Minister.
All-in-all this was a great way of bringing the Ethiopian government and Dutch private sectors together. On the one hand the private sector received the opportunity to communicate with the State Minister of Foreign Affairs in what they can offer the country, whilst at the same time stressing their concerns if they were to invest. On the other hand the State Minister could respond to these opportunities and concerns directly.
This meeting showed how the Dutch private sector is eager to learn more form opportunities in Africa and that the Ethiopian government is open and willing to discuss Dutch involvement though trade and investments. As the State Minister stated: “Those who are engaged, should engage more; those who are not engaged, should get engaged. This century is for the continent of Africa”.