15 March 2014 News Round Up


Ethiopia says flagship Grand Renaissance dam ’30pc complete’


By ANDUALEM SISAY in Addis Ababa | Thursday, March 13  2014 


  Zadig Abrha, deputy general director at the Office of National Council for the Coordination of Public Participation

on the Construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam, at a press conference on March 14, 2014


Ethiopia says it expects to start generating at least 750 megawatts of electricity from its Grand Renaissance Dam in the next 18 months, with construction work over 30 per cent complete.               

The controversial dam is being built on the Blue Nile, the main tributary of the Nile, at a projected cost of 75 billion birr (about $4.5 billion).                

“As we have completed one third of the construction of the dam, we expect to generate 750 MW of electricity within 18 months,” Zadig Abrha, the deputy director general of the national office co-ordinating public participation in the project, said Wednesday.                

“We hope we will be able to get the amount of water to move two turbines by next year as the first phase of power production of the dam [nears completion],” Mr Zadig said at a press briefing marking the third year since building work started.                

He said that the entire cost of construction of the 6,000 MW project is being funded from local sources. State utility Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation is spearheading the project, with Italy as the main technical supporter.               

“The Ethiopian people both domestically and abroad have pledged to buy a bond amounting 11.5 billion birr ($600 million). Out of this pledged amount 7.1 billion birr has already been collected and geared towards the construction of the dam,” he said.                

Commenting on a global campaign recently launched in Egypt against the construction of the dam, Mr Zadig said that Ethiopia was constructing the dam to meet its ever growing power needs.                

“Every year our power demand is increasing by 25 per cent and as of next year it is expected to grow by 35 per cent. As we all know our country is fighting poverty and the only way we get out of this poverty is by using our natural resources and water is one of it,” he said.


National pride


Egypt last month started an international campaign to prevent Ethiopia going on with the dam’s construction, which it deems a threat to its national security.                

Ethiopia however sees the dam as a source of national pride and expects to reap huge economic benefit once fully operational in 2017. The country of over 85 million seeks to become a regional electricity exporter and manufacturing centre.                

The two countries remain deadlocked in talks, and Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn was on February 13 quoted saying work would go on.                

Since 1999, nine Nile riparian countries have been in talks under the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) to reverse the 1929 and 1958 Nile water sharing deal between Egypt and Sudan, which allows them to monopolise use the Nile River.                

In 2013 NBI concluded signing the Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA) led by Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania, paving the way for the formation of a Nile Basin commission.                

Egypt, which identifies with the previous agreement, has refused to sign the new deal while Sudan, which officially did not oppose the CFA, has yet to sign.                

The Blue Nile accounts for 85 per cent of the Nile’s water flow, a river that flows northward through nine African states to the Mediterranean. Egypt is heavily dependent on the river.



Ethiopia plans to double sugar production


“Sugar consumption that dated back to the BC epoch found its way into Ethiopian

households only lately; people had to be convinced,” Ethiopian Sugar Corporation


Sugar has not been long present on Ethiopian tables. In fact, producers say that sugar production and consumption is only 60 years old in the African country – but they also believe their country has the potential to become one of the continent’s major producers of cane and sugar.

“Sugar consumption that dated back to the BC epoch found its way into Ethiopian households only lately; people had to be convinced,” Ethiopian Sugar Corporation Communications Director Zemedkun Tekle told Anadolu Agency.

“Local consumption currently stands at 500,000 tonnes per year,” Zemedkun said. “But this amount is small compared to that consumed in neighbouring Kenya.”

World Bulletin / News Desk quoted Zemedkun that with its 48 million population, about half of Ethiopia’s population size, neighbouring Kenya consumes 800,000 tonnes of sugar annually.

“Affluence, culture and awareness determine the amount of sugar a country’s population consumes,” Zemedkun believes. “The more developed a country is, the more sugar its population consumes.”

But Ethiopia’s recent accomplishments – both in terms of sugar cane production and sugar manufacturing and refining – are “nothing short of impressive,” said Zemedkun.

Today, sugar in Ethiopia is a multi-billion dollar industry, with a 25 billion birr budget (some 1.3 billion USD) this year alone. In the coming few years, the country hopes to become one of Africa’s leading sugar exporters.

“The Corporation is working to realize the country’s plan to export 658,200 tonnes of sugar next year,” Zemedkun said, referring to Ethiopia’s five-year development roadmap – dubbed the Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) – the first phase of which will expire in 2015/16.

The GTP-I envisaged construction of ten sugar farms and refineries in different parts of the country.

“We will have completed seven of the ten sugar manufacturing plants by the end of the plan period,” Zemedkun said. “The remaining three will roll over to the GTP-II.”

“Upon completion of the ten sugar plants, the country will have a production capacity of 1.5 million tonnes of sugar, residue from which will be used to produce 212,000 cubic meters of ethanol,” he said.

The GTP forecasts that these sugar industries will employ 200,000 people directly, while creating numerous indirect job opportunities.

But the plan will come at a cost. Recent reports suggest that the plant in the Kuraz Sugar Development Project in the South Ethiopian Peoples’ State – still under construction – had caused the displacement of local people, an allegation dismissed by Zemedkun.

“The people there are pastoralists who go from place to place in search of water and pastures,” he said.

“In fact, whenever there was a need to resettle people from sugar development sites in other areas, it was conducted in close consultation with affected societies,” he added.

According to Zemedkun, they were resettled to “better” areas in which there were irrigation schemes, schools and clinics.



Acumen Invests In Ethiopia’s Mekelle Farms

Screen Shot 2014-03-14 at 11.36.05 AM

VENTURES AFRICA – Non-profit global venture fund Acumen has invested in Mekelle Farms, Ethiopia’s largest producer of day-old chicks as a way of increasing its social impact in East Africa.

Acumen’s investment in the East African farm through majority owner AGFlow Ventures will help Mekelle increase its 1 million day-old chicks per year production to 2 million in the next 3 years.

“Social impact is central to Acumen’s work; Mekelle Farms’ model presents a clear opportunity to improve the livelihoods of small holder farmers while addressing the challenge of malnutrition in children by providing a ready source of protein,” said Duncan Onyango, East Africa Director Acumen.

Headquartered in New York, with regional operations in India, Pakistan, Kenya and Ghana, Acumen seeks to end poverty using entrepreneurial approaches, the organisation’s decision to invest in Mekelle Farms borders around its production of productive and disease-resistant chicks for smallholder farmers across Ethiopia.

The East African country, which is also Africa’s second-largest country by population,  has shown great potentials over the past 5 years, with a record of 7 percent GDP growth.

Despite the potentials shown by Ethiopia, approximately 40 percent of its population lives below the poverty line and 47 percent of children experience stunting and wasting as a result of extreme malnourishment, a statement by Acumen indicates.

Mekelle Farms’ work has not gone unnoticed, as other investors have put their money into the company, which started in 2010. Nairobi-based organisation, Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund, US-based venture development company, Flow Equity and Zemen Bank, a leading commercial bank in Ethiopia all have interests in Mekelle Farms.

“At Mekelle Farms we have created an efficient, scalable, and economically viable distribution chain to bring improved breeds and feed to the rural household at the grassroots level. Acumen’s patient capital model is an excellent addition to our capital base as we scale our business and impact the lives of smallholder farmers in Ethiopia,” said Joseph Shields, Mekelle Farms General Manager.

Acumen’s investment in Mekelle Farms, its first in East Africa is in furtherance of his crusade to end poverty in Africa. The fund has invested more than $30 million across East Africa since 2007, with focus on agriculture, housing, health, water and energy.

It is expected that Acumen’s newest investment will enhance Mekelle Farms production and improve incomes for smallholder farmers and rural women, as well as tackle the problem of malnourishment in Ethiopia.



Top 5 Banking Opportunities In Africa


VENTURES AFRICA – The rise of sub-Saharan Africa’s banking sector has been incredible. Coupled with emergence as one of Africa’s fastest growing sectors, compared to its relatively unexplored (and approach with caution) status only a decade ago, the sector has served as a major turn on for investors. Before now, the sector’s perceived (and often well-founded) risks and limited profit potential underscored the need of dire reform. Yet, in recent years, banking sectors reforms in many sub-Saharan African countries have paid big dividends. Capital bases have grown significantly (albeit from a small base) and risk management practices have drastically improved. Consumer and commercial lending has strengthened. However, despite the reforms and robust economic growth, the banking sector remains underinvested and in need of more robust strategies and systems, capital bases, lending capabilities, and talent infusion. Filling these gaps provide great profit potential, particularly in a few of Africa’s fastest-growing economies.


Nigeria is fan-favorite in the investor world for several reasons. It is Africa’s second largest economy and the world’s fourth biggest exporter of oil. A massive population and an entrepreneurial economic backdrop further brightens the country’s shine. Consumer banking provides enormous upside with more than half of Nigeria’s 170 million population still unbanked. A large proportion of those unbanked are of working age in a country ready absorb them into the workforce. Yet, consumer banking is only the tip of the iceberg compared to the corporate banking sector.

A constant flow of oil exports and growing share of gas opportunity fuels an active business community within the energy industry, in auxiliary industries and beyond. New business minds, such as Jason Njoku—the founder of IrokoTV, Nigeria’s version of Netflix—and established industrialists, such as Aliko Dangote—Africa’s richest man and owner of the behemoth conglomerate Dangote Group—are creating companies to fill the many gaps in the Nigerian economic system. Yet, five years after the 2009 economic crises which affected a number of its banks, many Nigeria banks are still reeling from the capital flight and are still unable (and scared) to provide sufficient business lending and financing on reasonable terms.

Corporate and consumer confidence arguable remains a challenge. Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan’s recent ousting of central bank governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi has done little to help the situation. Mr. Sanusi was generally respected and extolled for saving the economy after banking system collapsed in 2009. But his dismissal following his allegation that the state oil company, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), failed to pay $20 billion to the government has raised eyebrows over the central bank’s independence and the country’s banking system in general. Several analysts predict this could cause a drop in foreign investment in the near-term. Still, it is unimaginable that the Nigerian banking system, having learned its lessons after 2009, will not pick itself up and strive for greater heights and higher returns.


Ghana is a comparatively diversified economy with many sectors hitting a boom at the same time.  With potentially 1.25 billion barrels of oil in reserve, officials expect to produce 225,000 barrels per day in 2014. Infrastructure challenges have delayed production but the sector is roaring ahead. A strong gas sector, with approximately 22.7 billion cubic meters in reserves, assists in making the energy sector a very nice compliment to Ghana’s already strong mineral exploration industry, particularly gold. Yet logistics and service companies in auxiliary industries struggle for capital. Similar to the industries they serve, they look to offshore financing as the banking sector gradually improves. A lack of trade financing is very palpable considering the needs of explorers and operators in the country.

The recent integration of banking ATMS among nine banks in the country, including Zenith Bank (one of Nigeria’s biggest banks) and Ecobank, was a long overdue advancement, allowing customers to use their bank cards at ATMS serviced by banks different than the card provider. It was also an indication of how behind the times the banking sector had become. The country’s economy hosts a burgeoning small and medium enterprises (SME) sector. Yet this is the sector that most banks struggle to lend to, let alone insure. Ghana Commercial Bank has worked anxiously to fill the gaps in the system. But their officials are clear to state that it needs more partners in the banking sector to get the country roaring ahead. A more sophisticated risk management system, stronger capacity building abilities and greater financial resources in the system would go far to boost profit potential and move the sector forward.


The “Angola opportunity” in financial services is best characterized by three things: (1) GDP, (2) oil, and (3) banking net profit. Most investors are familiar with sub-Saharan Africa’s top two economies, Nigeria and South Africa, but struggle to identify this emerging behemoth, Angola. It is Portuguese-speaking, often keeping it under the radar of both Francophone and Anglophone news sources. But its growing prowess makes that point less relevant, specifically as Africa’s third top producer of oil and the world’s seventh biggest oil exporter in the world. Oil (and gas) drive this coastal country’s economy and also make’s Luanda a consistent #1 or #2 for most expensive cities in the world for expats.

Despite the country’s economic strength, the financial services sectors remain relatively uncompetitive. Bankers in Luanda brag about the net profits garnered in the country. Specifically, two Portuguese banks, Banco Espirito Santo and Millennium BCP, have performed extremely well. They operate primarily in three countries in sub-Saharan Africa: Angola, Mozambique (which we will cover next) and Cape Verde. Banking net profits, excluding South Africa, place Banco Espirito Santo and Millennium BCP as the approximate #3 and #7 bank in Africa by net profit. Yet, all these numbers overshadow the daily reminder in Luanda (and especially outside Luanda) that service offerings and product availability can still improve.

Businesses consistently complain about the banks’ abilities to move monies quickly (particularly for international business), provide quick money transactions (i.e., point of service (POS), direct debit, etc.), and negotiate suitable corporate lending agreements. And, for the rapidly growing middle class consumers (in this relatively small population), cash can sometimes reign as king when traveling outside Angola (and sometimes within it) when ATMs do not have cash, POS systems do not work, and certain bank cards are not accepted at different stores and ATMs.


Mozambique is very different from the previous three countries. Although a Lusophone country (Portuguese-speaking), the country is not an emerging oil giant (not for lack of trying considering all the oil exploration companies passing through). South African petrochemical company Sasol made the sole minor splash with its announcement that it will be the first to produce oil commercially in Mozambique (with around 2,000 barrels of oil per day compared to Nigeria 2.2 million barrels per day). It is more known for its picturesque coastal beaches, amazing food, and welcoming culture. But it is not just tourism that has foreigners inundating Maputo’s international airport.

With over 250 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of reserves, Mozambique could become the fourth largest exporter of gas in the world. The country expects to have four LNG units completed by 2018 with a total capacity of 20 million metric tons per year. Banks have made best efforts to meet the resulting boom in corporate and consumer spending. But the infrastructure is simply not there yet. POS systems takes months for delivery and they cannot work (too often for comfort) because a banking system internal network or country network is down (offline). Banc ABC is one of the few banks to provide a decent option for paying bills outside the country with its prepaid travel card. Consumers consequently carry 3 – 5 bank cards to ensure they have access to cash at any point.

Corporate banking presents even greater challenges as credit lending is minimal and cross-border transactions involves much paperwork and can take beyond a week to process. In a country where the most medium sized private equity firms (i.e., $50 million) would be a top five bank based on assets, all these challenges are not too surprising. But, when two of the top five banks CEOs in the country say lending $1 million for a project can be stretching them far, it is hard to ignore the investment opportunity.


Ethiopia is the new investment darling to the conversation. It is sub-Saharan Africa’s second most populated country with a very young workforce. It is attracting foreign capital for major energy projects (in both traditional and renewable sources) and manufacturing for its burgeoning consumer class and export. But there is still one holdup: the banking sector is closed to foreign investors. Yet it is hard to not include this country on the list. The country has an entrepreneurial business community that requires greater access to lending and financing as the Development Bank of Ethiopia feels greater financial constraint from backing the numerous projects in the government’s massive infrastructure plan. Product and service offerings remain relatively underdeveloped. Ethiopia officials give all indications that the sector will open up over time. For now, it is simply a diamond in the dirt that attracts considerable attention than its more refined peers.



Ethiopia poised to transform tourism industry


Addis Ababa, 14 March 2014 (WIC) – Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn made official the establishment of new entities touted to be instrumental in transforming Ethiopia’s tourism industry.

At a gallant ceremony held inside the African Union and attended by senior government officials and prominent personalities, Tourism Transformation Council and Ethiopian Tourism Organization are launched. The entities are established under the Council of Ministers Regulation No. 294/2013.

Prime Minister Hailemariam will serve as chairperson of the Tourism Transformation Council highlighting the government’s commitment to develop the sector.

“It is imperative to coordinate the activities of the various stakeholders in the tourism industry to promote and develop the sector,” Hailemariam said during the inaugural.

The council, whose members are drawn from federal and regional government institutions, the private sector, associations and religious institutions, is tasked with the major responsibility of providing leadership and directions.

“For a long time, our country has been negatively portrayed internationally,” Hailemariam said. “This is quickly changing and we need to sustain our efforts to positively portray the image of the country,” he said.

The council, which will meet once every six months, conducted its maiden meeting under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister.

The ceremony also saw the establishment of an autonomous federal government organ – the Ethiopian Tourism Organization. The organization will function as the secretariat of the council and is structured to have a Tourism Board and a Director General.

Endowed with rich natural, historical and cultural resources, Ethiopia has nine UNESCO registered World Heritage Sites – the leading in Africa. However, the country’s underdeveloped tourism industry is ranked 120th globally and 17th in Africa.

Under the growth and transformation plan, the government aims to make the country one of the top tourist destinations in Africa.

The establishment of these entities will lay a strong foundation and help us in our efforts to develop the sector, Amin Abdulkadir, tourism minister, said during the inaugural.

He said the ministry is encouraged by recent growth of the sector and is keen to scale up its efforts to utilize the full potential of the country’s tourism industry.

The number of tourists coming to the country is growing by 10 percent annually while income from the sector shows a 20 percent growth, according to data from the ministry.



Officials inspect road  projects’ progress


 The projects are lagging behind schedule and short of meeting contractual agreements


The Addis Ababa Roads Authority Wednesday organized a day-long field visit to various road projects being undertaken by local and foreign contractors in the capital.

The visit was made by City Mayor Diriba Kuma and other City Administration officials. The group visited AtikiltTera-Autobis Tera, Abune Petros-Pasteur, Pasteur-Wingate and Ayer Tena-Yeshi Deble road projects.

General Manager Eng. Fekade Haile said that the projects are lagging behind schedule and short of meeting contractual agreements.

He attributed the delay, among others, to the right of way as well as contractors and design problems.

According to him, the right of way problem would be addressed within the shortest time possible and the contractors are expected to complete the projects in time, otherwise the Authority would be forced to terminate the contact.

He further noted that the Authority is obliged to closely follow up the execution of the projects and the contractors do their level best to honour the contractual agreement.

Eng. Fekade also said that the construction of the Addis Ababa Light Railway Project is also affecting the construction of roads as the retention of the railway should be completed first to execute the construction of trunk road.

According to him, lack of coordination among ethio telecom, Electric Power Corporation and the authority, which is a longstanding problem, has been managed effectively.

Mayor Dirba on his part said that the projects are all lagging behind schedule. “We are running out of time. And for this, the people are suffering from unsafe roads.”

He said that the contractors should complete and handover the projects until 12 June 2014, otherwise the Authority is obliged to terminate the contract.



Ethiopian rejects  2013 State Department’s Human Rights Report


Addis Ababa, 14 March 2014 (WIC) – The Ethiopian government said the 2013 State Department’s Human Rights Report on Ethiopia is a rehash of previous allegations sprinkled with new, but unfounded accusations that can barely survive close inspection.


Read the entire release



As an elected government open to constructive criticism and suggestions on ways of improving its human rights protection practices, the federal government of Ethiopia has carefully examined the 2013 State Department’s Human Rights Report on Ethiopia. Despite initial guarded optimism and hopeful expectation that some measure of improvement would be made, the 2013 Report, nonetheless, turned out to be a rehash of previous allegations sprinkled with new, but unfounded accusations that can barely survive close inspection. What compound the Report’s weakness are the sources and informants which it prima face characterizes as credible, whose testimony must, therefore, to be taken at face value.  Yet, a cursory glance at the self-serving “information” which theses “credible” informants secretly supplied to the State Department reveals their true identity. For, they are none other than the same party functionaries of the extreme untisystemic opposition parties both abroad and at home. The same outfits who, lacking in popular appeal, conspire to overthrow the lawful government by means prohibited by the constitution, which otherwise provides for a democratic transfer of power.

The irony  is,  once their own  disinformation winds up in  a State Department’s document and  takes on the trappings of credibility,  it is  immediately flaunted as a compelling  evidence of human right violation in Ethiopia that serves notice to the United State to  review its relations with Ethiopia. The interim objective is obviously to undermine the Bilateral Dialogue Mechanism, a framework within which the United States and Ethiopia have been conducting a series of consultations on a broad range of issues. One important topic that continues to engage the two sides is devising an effective assessment mechanism of the human rights situation in Ethiopia and how the US could help its African counterpart as it endeavors to deliver on its commitment to human rights.

Whilst Ethiopia believes that some progress has been made to this end, the 2013 State Department Report, nonetheless, in characteristic disregard to concrete facts on the ground and excessive reliance on unverifiable anecdotes, would have us believe that the Dialogue Mechanism has failed to produce a satisfactory outcome.

In effect, perhaps swayed by its so-called credible informants, the   State Department and its human right czars, like the high-priests of Human Rights Watch, is doing the biding of the extremist opposition who crave to see the ongoing constructive dialogue between Ethiopia and the United States terminated.  Clearly, barring Human Rights Watch, no human rights advocate worthy of the name can  expect to be taken seriously so long  as it lobbies for disengagement or  termination of bilateral dialogue aimed at fostering a greater enabling environment for  the exercise of the right in question.

The Ethiopian government has constitutional obligation to respect Human Rights as its commitment is first and foremost to the wellbeing of its people.  The government appreciates any assistance that would enable it to live up to its own constitutional ideals. Nonetheless, as much as it welcomes legitimate criticism of its admittedly less than perfect human rights practices, it resents reports that willfully tarnish its image, especially when it involves the US State Department.  Unfortunately, since the 2013 State Department Report falls under this category, Ethiopia is obliged to reject it as a document that fell short of the spirit and good faith that animates true advocates for human rights.

03/13/2014   The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia Addis Ababa Ethiopia



Council to  step up peace, stability  ensuring efforts


The Inter Religious Council of Ethiopia announced that it would step up its effort to further strengthen the current peace , stability and religious tolerance across the nation in its 6th General Assembly here yesterday.

Federal Affairs Minster Faith and Religion Director General Haji Ali said that the exemplary longstanding peaceful coexistence and tolerance among various religions in the country should be handed down to the posterity in a bid to bring about tangible and sustainable development and peace.

Moreover, upholding and respecting the constitution that assures religious equality and freedom is very crucial in the efforts of building democracy and ensuring good governance in the country, he added.

Pertaining to some individuals who attempt to disrupt the peace and the development of the country in the disguise of religion, Haji said that the council has a responsibility of giving lessons to such individuals in order to make them productive citizens.

According to the Council Performance Report of 2013, over four million birr was donated to rehabilitate the Saudi Returnees, 67 complaints regarding good governance in religious institutions were examined and preparation of a teaching manual on the values of peace was finalized, among others.

The General Assembly concluded ratifying unanimously the Performance Report of 2013 and council plan for 2014.

The Inter Religious Council of Ethiopia consists seven different religions. The senior religious fathers of these religions are the patrons of the council as well. The council was established three years back.



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