As Ethiopia celebrated its National Day at the end of last month, the country’s Ambassador, His Excellency Mr Ato Berhanu Kebede, writes about his country’s tremendous growth, infrastructure projects and potential investment
Ethiopia is the cradle of all humankind and one of the oldest countries in the world. Our National Day, 28 May, marks the end of the military dictatorship, which fell in 1991 and the beginning of a new era of democracy in Ethiopia.
Once a highly centralised state, Ethiopia now has a federal structure that enables its nations and nationalities to fully exercise their economic, political and social rights. The constitution came into being and involved the direct participation of the people and guarantees basic human rights, freedom of political association, equality of gender and religious rights, among many others. It has set the pathway for democratic political dispensation.
Ethiopia has become one of the fastest growing economies in Africa and is among the ten fastest growing economies in the world. This in turn, has helped the country to sustainably fund effective health and education services: every village has expert health workers, over 96 per cent of children have access to primary education and the country’s universities have grown from one in 1991 to 32 today. Thanks to pro-poor development strategies and policies, Ethiopia is expected to meet Millennium Development Goal objectives by 2015.
Ethiopia has been building an extensive infrastructure in the past 22 years – 100,000km of roads, 5,000km of railway and production of 10,000mw of electricity. These massive infrastructure projects also serve to encourage regional co-operation and integration. Hydro-electricity projects have already begun to supply electricity to our neighbours Djibouti and Sudan and gridlines to supply 400mw of electricity to Kenya are under construction. So Ethiopia’s growth and transformation has not only brought peace but has made Ethiopia an anchor of stability in the sub-region and the continent as a whole.
Ethiopia’s ecological diversity offers the opportunity of growing any crop whether its grain, vegetable, fruit or flowers. Its largely untapped wealth of gold, minerals, precious and semi-precious stones as well as its oil and gas and its energy-producing capacity – hydro, geo-thermal, wind and solar –await the resources and expertise of investors from around the world. Raw materials such as the finest skins and organic cotton offer a ready supply base for processing into leather and textiles. Ethiopian leather is used to make golf gloves worn by top professionals and the best quality riding gloves, even worn by the royals. The birthplace of coffee, Ethiopia has the best coffees in the world, offering a wide range of Arabica coffees that, like fine wine, vary in taste depending on where they are grown.
Ethiopia has attracted huge foreign direct investment and the flow is continuing to grow. Ethiopia is investor friendly and lies at the crossroads between the Middle East and Europe, providing an ideal location for investment. Ethiopia hosts the African Union, the ECA and over 100 embassies and other regional organisations. As a member of COMESA with its 420 million people it provides great opportunities for investors looking for markets. The country enjoys quota- and duty-free access to various markets such as those of the EU, the US and of emerging economies.
Ethiopia’s economic strategy, with its fast growth trajectory, was engineered by our late Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, who worked day and night for its implementation. The new leadership in Ethiopia is committed to upholding the legacy and vision of our late leader.
Ethiopia’s exceptional natural beauty includes soaring mountains, valleys, the volcanic lakes of the Danakil Depression, vast rivers and abundant wildlife with birds and mammals endemic to Ethiopia. It is home to nine World Heritage Sites including the ancient Aksum Obelisks, the rock-hewn churches of Lalibella and the ancient walled city of Harar with its 82 mosques. Every year, archaeological digs discover more evidence of Ethiopia’s 4,000-year-old history.
More than 80 nationalities will be celebrating Ethiopia’s National Day in their own unique way with parades, music and dance, each with their own rich cuisine including a delicious range of meat stews and exquisite subtly spiced vegetable dishes to suit all tastes. This year, it will be celebrated with the certain knowledge that Ethiopia and Africa are enjoying a well-earned renaissance.