In DepthColumnsLessons in tough love from Ethiopia


Posted on Thursday, 18 December 2014 10:56

Lessons in tough love from Ethiopia

Nicholas Norbrook

It seems obvious, but national leaders have a duty to play all competing interests off against another, to get the best outcome for the country. No permanent friends, just permanent interests, and all that.

But just as obvious is how hard that is. You need a principled set of politicians at the top taking decisions, something no country is blessed with in totality. And in some countries, totally absent.

...there are more spills and accidents in their African operations...because environmental regulatory enforcement is minimal

Three cheers then for Ethiopia's top decision makers, who have had the courage of their convictions, and enforced their contract agreement with telecoms group ZTE.

The Chinese company was mandated to help increase the number of mobile phone subscribers to 50 million, up from the current 25 million, but wanted more cash to complete the job.

Ethio Telecom – a strategic state asset of the Ethiopian government's development agenda – played hardball, and have brought in Swedish telecoms group Ericcson to finish the job.

Politicians could probably force more reckoning onto global corporates active in Africa.

Off the record, many an oil executive has admitted that the reason that there are more spills and accidents in their African operations is simply because environmental regulatory enforcement is minimal – it is easy to buy off someone at the top, and avoid a big clean-up bill. The very same companies have much better safety records in Europe and elsewhere.

Nicholas Norbrook

Nicholas Norbrook

Nicholas Norbrook is Managing Editor of The Africa Report, helping to set up the magazine in 2005. He has been a producer for Radio France International, and has lived and worked in West Africa. In 2011 he won the Diageo Business Reporting award for Journalist of the Year.

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