The Ethiopia Partnerships Forum
A cross section of delegates at the Ethiopia Partnerships Forum
On May 16, the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) partnered with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and Citibank to present the “Ethiopia Partnerships Forum,” which completed the two-day long summit. The “Ethiopia’s Threshold Development” panel was in partnership with the MCC and facilitated by Bahgi Berhane, Program Officer of the MCC. The new Threshold Compact announced by the MCC in Ethiopia will take place over the next three years in which the MCC and government of Ethiopia will rigorously analyze both the constraints of economic growth and entrepreneurship. The Compact’s mission is to eradicate poverty and ensure economic success. Both Mr. James Gerard, Acting Ethiopia Lead of MCC, and Ms. Deidra Fair James, Director of MCC, applauded the Ethiopian government for their willingness and enthusiasm to ensure economic stability and growth for all Ethiopians. This was echoed by the Ambassador H.E. Fitsum Arega. He noted that small to medium-enterprises (SMEs) were the “missing middle” in Ethiopia and lacked access to both credit and capital. He believed SMEs need support from countries, like the United States, that provide financing programs. Mr. Peter Sullivan, Managing Director and Head of Public Sector Group for Africa for Citi Bank agreed with the Ambassador and urged foreign investors and multilateral banks to absorb some of the risk of investing in SMEs.
The second panel entitled “Access to Capital” was in partnership with Citibank and monitored by CCA’s President Ms. Florie Liser. The panel focused on issues related to financial growth in Ethiopia. Dr. Nemera Mamo, a member of the Office of the Prime Minister in Ethiopia, stated that the credit market is one of the biggest concerns in the Ethiopian economy right now. In his prescription, Dr. Mamo believes that in order to expand funds and increase financial inclusion, it is vital that the pool of domestic savings increases. Increased domestic funds, he stated, will allow the Ethiopian government to raise funds based on their own market and not that of other countries. Similarly, domestic structures, like regulatory commissions, will allow Ethiopia to judge companies more efficiently, which may increase foreign investment in the country. Mr. Peter Sullivan agreed and urged the government of Ethiopia to look at the telecom sector with his belief that increased digitalization will allow for more financial inclusion and access to credit. Furthermore, Mr. Alex Dixon, Senior Director of Finance for the MCC, advised the Ethiopian government to alert the MCC of the ways in which it can help the government invest in SMEs. He believes that the foundation is there for Ethiopian growth, but it is crucial that the MCC and other foreign firms work alongside the Ethiopian government in order to indicate where they can grow. Mr. Zemedeneh Negatu, Global Chairman of the Fairfax Africa Fund, stated that it was crucial for the diaspora to become more invested in Ethiopia.
Both panels echoed the need for public-private partnerships in sustaining Ethiopian economic growth. The collaborative forum allowed private companies and the Ethiopian government to engage in meaningful dialogue to help increase foreign investment in the country. Although many constraints, such as limited access to capital and finance, were voiced as concerns, the conversation allowed the private and public sectors to come up with innovative strategies the Ethiopian government could implore in creating a more welcoming foreign investment environment.