“A lot has changed for the good in Ethiopia. Although the famine of the eighties is long ago, many still have an unbalanced image of Ethiopia.” Meet Addis Alemayehou, an entrepreneur in Ethiopia, who firmly believes in the economic potential of his country. Ethiopia will be hosting the World Economic Forum Africa in May and Addis’ will be co-organizing an ‘Invest in Ethiopia’ forum for the participants coming to the event.
Addis, now 41 years old, left his country with his parents at the age of 7; he was raised in Kenya and Canada but returned to his country ten years ago. Addis is member of the board of the ICTET, the ICT association of Ethiopia, but he is probably best known for his work in the advertising and communication sector. Two years ago the managing partner of the Addis Ababa ad and PR agency 251 Communications started the first English-language radio station of Ethiopia, AFRO FM, covering African business news.
There is definitely a lot to report on in Ethiopia. “It has been 26 years since the world was shocked by the pictures of hunger and despair. It is a different country now and I would love to help change the image of Ethiopia; one of the fastest growing countries in the world today. This year, our economy is growing almost as fast as India’s and China’s. We have had double digit growth for six years now!”
An entrepreneurial spirit in the local business community fuels Ethiopia’s growth numbers. “We are now the second largest flower producer – next to Kenya – of Africa, exporting a growing number of our products to Europe. There is a tremendous amount of investment going on right now. Heineken just invested $ 175 million in Ethiopia and Diageo brought in another $ 230 million. There are a lot of investment opportunities in other sectors.”
What sectors look promising? “I would say agriculture is number one. This is a huge, green country, with lots of opportunities. Two would be manufacturing, because the 86 million inhabitants are rapidly becoming consumers; we have a fast-growing middle class that has real spending power. Three would be tourism: this country has seven Unesco World Heritage Sites! It is an old country that has been around for 3,000 years and that has never been colonised! Number four and five on the investment list are the IT and energy sectors, because there is a lot happening in these areas now. Ethiopia is like a plane waiting to take off: either you get on it or don´t.”
Of course, there is work to be done. “We do need to get rid of some of the red tape. We do need to work on logistics and infrastructure; fortunately, the government has a strong focus on building roads, domestically and regional, to better connect Ethiopia to the world. I call this ‘work in progress’. To businessmen I would say: come now and don’t wait until Ethiopia is finished.”
Do you have any experience in doing business in or with Ethiopia? And do you share Addis’ optimism?