April 28, 2023

U.S.-Ethiopia Business & Investment Forum

Share this News

On Wednesday, April 12, 2023, Corporate Council on Africa (CCA), in partnership with WAFA Marketing and Promotion, hosted the “U.S. Ethiopia Business and Investment Forum” on the sideline of the 2023 World Bank and IMF spring meetings. Attended by Ethiopian policy makers and a diverse group of businesses from the U.S. and Ethiopia, the forum allowed participants to hear about the current opportunities for doing business in Ethiopia and network with key stakeholders. In addition, Ethiopian government officials provided updates on the Ethiopian economic reform policy, including the liberalization of state-owned enterprises.Florizelle Liser, President & CEO of Corporate Council on Africa, provided welcome remarks and thanked the Ethiopian delegation, including H.E. Ahmed Shide, Minister of Finance, Seleshi Bekele, Ethiopian Ambassador to the United States, Lelise Neme, Commissioner of the Ethiopian Investment Commission and Ambassador Ababai Demissie, Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Ms. Liser highlighted CCA’s recognition of Ethiopia’s economic reform and the number of programs CCA has hosted to the growing American business interest in Ethiopia.Ambassador Bekele also provided welcoming remarks thanking CCA and WAFA for hosting the event and congratulating CCA on its 30th anniversary celebration. Furthermore, Ambassador Seleshi highlighted Ethiopia’s commitment to the reforms, such as signing the peace treaty to promote peace and stability in the country.In his opening remarks, Minister Shide expressed his sincere thanks to the Corporate Council on Africa, especially Ms. Liser, for hosting the U.S. Ethiopia Business and Investment Forum and for her continued leadership and support to promote U.S.-Ethiopia trade and investment. Minister Shide highlighted that the Ethiopian economy is projected to grow 7.5% this year. As the largest economy in East Africa and the third largest in Sub-Saharan Africa, Ethiopia has attracted significant foreign direct investments (FDI). This growth is due to the reform measures implemented and infrastructure investments in roads, railways, cargo facilities, airports, and renewable energy. Furthermore, the minister shared the various economic reforms the government of Ethiopia is implemented and liberalization programs aimed at sustaining rapid economic growth, creating job opportunities, and transitioning from public-led to private sector-led development.In her presentation, Ethiopia Investment Commissioner provided key findings about Ethiopia’s demographic, with 65% of the population being young. Ethiopia ranked as the 5th largest GDP in Africa and the 3rd fastest growing economy. The commissioner touched on economic and investment reforms such as inflation control, debt sustainability, and ease of business constraints through regulatory reforms. Commissioner Mene emphasized Ethiopia’s commitment to gradually move from state-owned to privatization and liberalization as it opened the financial sector to foreign investors.Moderated by Witney Schneidman, the forum began with each panelists stating the case for investing in Ethiopia while highlighted their work in the country and discussing the current opportunities and challenges.Brenda Mbathi, CEO of General Electric (GE) East Africa, provided GE’s long-lasting work in Ethiopia, particularly its partnership with Ethiopian Airlines to increase access to other areas in Africa and abroad and shared GE’s collaboration with Ethiopian Electric Power Authority to improve access to power.Admassu Tadesse, President Emeritus and Group Managing Director of Eastern and Southern Africa Trade and Development Bank (TD Bank), shared TD Bank’s experience working in the aviation and banking sector. Mr. Tadesse also discussed TD Bank’s involvement in Ethiopia’s manufacturing, real estate, tourism, and mining industries. In addition, he emphasized the importance of its strategic partners, such as the African Development Bank, on its various projects on the continent.Andrew Torre, Regional President for Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East, and Africa from VISA, contributed to the conversation by shedding light on VISA’s work in Ethiopia. Mr. Torre noted that the country’s young and large population is a tremendous advantage for digital technology. Currently, only 38% of Ethiopians have access to financial services. VISA is looking to support fintech companies to expand in Ethiopia through its “VISA Everywhere” initiative launched in 2021, that invites fintech companies to share their solution to payment challenges in underrepresented communities. Additionally, Mr. Torre addressed the lack of support for women entrepreneurs, and VISA’s “She’s Next” Grant program funds women with their business ventures across the African continent.Dawit Hailu, Managing Director of Wudassie Diagnostic Center, shared that there are gaps in healthcare demands and needs. 85% of pharmaceutical needs are imported from abroad. The biggest challenge to produce domestically is importing raw materials and creating awareness of the priority of healthcare, proper human resources, and medical training.Ambassador Ababai Demissie concluded the panel by addressing the government’s commitment to incorporate the framework for the digital economy with an aim for 2025, as the payment and digital system are crucial on their reformation agenda. The Ethiopian government has opened the financial sector to foreign investors to address the digital payment problem. In addition, its embassies interact with the private sector and leverage the Ethiopian diaspora and its allies to attract foreign investors further.