I’d particularly like to welcome my colleague and friend, His Excellency the Ethiopian Foreign Minister Dr Tedros Adhanom, to his second home in London. He came to office 3 years ago and has been a highly constructive partner throughout my time in Ethiopia as well as a self-confessed “salesman” for his country,a role he’s taken to as if born to it. Delighted he is leading this delegation, accompanied by numerous Ethiopian dignitaries and businesspeople. May I also welcome our Minister for Africa, Grant Shapps, who is also the first Minister to hold the portfolio jointly between the Foreign Office and DFID; which has made sense given the joint nature of much of our work in the African Continent.
This is the first Trade and Investment Forum that the excellent UK company DMA have organised on Ethiopia since mid-2011 and the first since my arrival there as Ambassador in December 2011, nearly four years ago. Pleased at the close working relationship you have established with your partners in the Ethiopian Embassy and the Ethiopian Chamber of Commerce and WAFA in preparing for this Forum. At the 2011 Forum, the first session was on ‘stating the case for investment in Ethiopia’. I think it is probably demonstrable of the change that has taken place in the subsequent four years that few of you here today will need to have the case stated to you. The large turn-out and the particular sectors who are well represented here today suggest you are already aware of the terrific scale of potential opportunity that Ethiopia in 2015 presents.
When I was reviewing the list of UK attendees earlier, it was clearly well matched to the current areas of opportunity and growth in Ethiopia: value-added agribusiness, professional services, venture capital and investment firms, extractives and energy, infrastructure and manufacturing are all well represented. I was recently speaking to a leading global consultancy firm who keep an informal tally of new business requests they get by country – and Ethiopia currently sits right at the top of the table. This is no coincidence.
The scale of the potential opportunity is enormous and the scope of the Government’s ambition is breathtaking. Some of that opportunity has been visibly realised during my time as Ambassador – I have witnessed huge changes in construction in Addis Ababa, for example, and was able to take a ride on the light railway that has just opened through the centre of the city for the first time earlier this month. I hope before long to travel by railway between Addis and Djibouti. Other developments are less visible but just as real – an Ethiopian factory worker is 1/10th of the cost of their Chinese counterpart; Ethiopia has some of the cheapest energy in Africa available; and the country is well-placed to produce their own supply of cotton for the burgeoning textile industry. Ethiopia is indeed on the cusp of a light manufacturing revolution.
In the Ethiopian Government’s latest Growth and Transformation Plan, their second five-year blueprint for how the country will develop and progress, there are proposals to increase hydro-power generation from 2,310MW to 17,347MW – a 651% increase; expand the road network from 120,000km to 220,000km – an 83% increase; increase the railway network from 691km to 2,782km – a 303% increase; and increase manufacturing exports from $396m to $4,000m – a 910% increase. This is all predicated on year-on-year growth of 11%. Certainly the World Bank and IMF believe Ethiopia will continue to enjoy one of the highest growth rates on our planet for the next few years.
A plan of this nature needs professional and excellent support to match it – and it is my belief that British resources, skills and expertise are able to provide this. Whether designing and building a new airport; offering world-leading solutions for renewable energy generation; running tourist facilities which meet global standards; or supplying world-class supply-chain and logistics services, I believe that many of the UK companies here today are all well placed to benefit from the possibilities opening up in a country that is truly a Lion of Africa and economically set to roar on the world stage. Yes, there are challenges, some of which we will explore in the course of today and which need to be resolved. Yes, you need patience and a long-term approach. But for many companies with a global vision, Ethiopia is a huge and growing market which you should not and cannot ignore. My British Embassy team is there to help you explore the possibilities.
I wish you all a fruitful day and look forward to meeting those of you I don’t know already in person over the course of the Forum.
Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office.