NewsEast & Horn AfricaEthiopia: We want technology transfers - Deputy PM


Posted on Thursday, 02 April 2015 17:34

Ethiopia: We want technology transfers - Deputy PM

By Interview by Nicholas Norbrook

Photo©AU CommissionDebretsion Gebremichael, Deputy prime minister, Ethiopia, rose to eminence within the liberation struggle at the helm of the rebels' intelligence services.

Currently one of three deputy prime ministers, he is also a leading figure in the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front, the predominant faction within the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front. His current brief is to oversee the economy, and he belongs to a pragmatic strand of the ruling party that has pushed for things like Ethiopia's successful $1bn sovereign bond launch in December 2014.

To help trade and investment, we have to improve the business environment around logistics.

The Africa Report: How important is it for you that investors also share technology with local players?

This is our strategy. One of the important interventions we are looking at doing, in addition to attracting investment, is skills development. We are also looking hard at what kinds of technology transfer we want to have. We have not done so much yet, but that is the emphasis. But we have to secure first the investment, secure the business, then that will follow. It is one of our criteria for picking companies as long as they are also competitive in business.

There is a lot of talk of textiles, is this now your priority?

Our country is essentially an agrarian country. Our economy is heavily based on agriculture: more than 80%, I would say, of our labour is employed in agriculture; more than 40% of our gross domestic product is based on agriculture. If you look at our exports, more than 80% is from agriculture.

So this is a priority from our government point of view. We see a route to industry through agro-processing. One intervention of foreign companies, for example, will be in horticulture. Many of the foreign companies we have at the moment in the country are involved in the export of flowers to Europe. It's not to the extent that we want, but there is good progress. We started it a few years back from zero, now we are the second exporter from Africa.

We emphasise that foreign companies work with local partners, with private companies and also with government companies. Through that vehicle, they can transfer skills, knowledge and technology. Local capacity will be built through these encounters.

The building blocks of manufacturing are cheap power, labour and logistics. The first two seem covered, so what about transporting goods?

You are raising one of our pains. We have a lot to do in logistics on efficiency in our export corridors. These are very critical, but we know these are the weak points in imports and exports as well. We have started overhauling with a state company. We have quite a few private companies also involved. We have to work on both fronts, consolidating the reforms that we have undertaken on the state company and improve the management of the company.

And then with the private sector, we have to support their capability. Then, obviously, we have to work on the infrastructure. We have to improve our connection with Djibouti. The cost of transport will go down with this new route. And one of the best solutions is the rail link, which government has given priority number one. To help trade and investment, we have to improve the business environment around logistics. ●

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