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Russian investors should seize the opportunity to invest in Ghana

Kester Kenn Klomegah

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For nearly six decades, Ghana and Russia have had an excellent diplomatic relations and still looking to build a stronger economic cooperation. In this exclusive GNA interview, Ms. Shirley Ayorkor Botwe, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, explains to Kester Kenn Klomegah, the Moscow Bureau Chief, a number of significant corporate projects being undertaken by Russians as well as some aspects of the current economic cooperation between the two countries.

Hon. Minister, how would you assess the current diplomatic relations between the Republic of Ghana and the Russian Federation?

Currently, Ghana and Russia have an excellent diplomatic relations, which has been developed over the years, precisely 59 years. Although, for a relationship lasting this long, one would have expected it to move past where it is now. In short, there is still room for improvement.

Specifically, what is the level of economic cooperation between the two countries? And what are your priorities in the economic and business sphere?

Ghana and Russia are presently building stronger economic ties. Through the framework of the Ghana-Russia Permanent Joint Commission for Cooperation (PJCC), the two countries have pushed forward the agenda of fostering economic cooperation, first and foremost, in their relationship. Two sessions of the Ghana-Russia PJCC have been held already following the reactivation of the PJCC in 2013, with the last one taking place in Accra in September 2016.

The PJCC brings government officials and business leaders of the two countries together to discuss and forge cooperation on a wide range of issues of mutual interest to both nations such as Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy, Immigration, Narcotics Control, Reciprocal Promotion and Protection of Investments, Agriculture, Fisheries and Aquaculture, Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters, Trade and Industry, Geology and Mineral Resources, Education and Science, Health, Transport, Housing, Information Communication Technology, and the Military.

Russia is an Energy giant. Ghana has persistent energy problems. Do you think Russia can play a significant role in providing long-term solution and most probably support the proposed nation-wide industrialisation programme of the current government?

Certainly, Russia can play, and is being engaged to play, a significant role in the long-term generation of power in Ghana. Negotiations are progressing steadily between the Ministry of Energy of the Republic of Ghana and ROSATOM of the Russian Federation in the construction and operation of the first ever Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) in Ghana and West Africa, with Russian design power units 1000-1200 MW capacity, together with other affiliated nuclear projects. It is hoped that both sides would expedite the negotiations, come to early consensus and have the project take off in good time.

Ghana is open to all the support that it could get from its friends and development partners in the nation-building drive, particularly in the nation-wide industrialisation programme of ‘one-district-one-factory’ of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) administration. Ghana could benefit a lot from the rich experiences of Russia, which has advanced knowledge, in the area of industrialisation. In any case, getting the power generating project going will impact considerably on the programme since the role of electricity cannot be downplayed in any industrial development.

Hon. Minister, what opportunities and incentives are currently available for foreign investors especially in the medium scale (size) businesses in Ghana? What is your special message for potential Russian investors here?

Ghana has one of the most attractive investment packages for foreign investors in Africa. Opportunities abound in nearly all the sectors of the Ghanaian economy, for instance in transportation, construction, real estate, banking, health, education, manufacturing, energy, agriculture and commerce, for every kind of foreign investor and on any scale, being large, medium or small.

The investment incentives include tax holidays right from the start of operation up to five, seven and 10 years depending on the type of investment. Five years for real estate investment, seven years for waste processing investment and 10 years for free-zone enterprise or development are few of the examples. Besides these attractions, there are investment guarantees, beginning with the constitutional guarantee, investment laws that guarantee 100% transfer of profits, dividends, etc., as well as negotiations of Bilateral Investment Promotion Treaties (BITs) and Double Taxation Agreements (DTAs).

The message to Russian investors is that Ghana is the gateway to West Africa and, therefore, the right place to invest in West Africa and Africa as a whole. With solid political stability and security, together with the very attractive investment package and easy accessibility to the entire West Africa market, not to mention the legendary Ghanaian hospitality, investing in Ghana is worthwhile and extremely profitable to all foreign investors. Thus, Russian investors should seize the opportunity to invest in Ghana for it is the right time and the right place to be in Africa.

Ghana celebrated its 60th independence in March. In your opinion, what are the landmark achievements in the economy? How important are these achievements for attracting foreign business into the country?

Sixty years ago on 6th March, 1957, Ghana attained its independence from Great Britain. The country has had its share of ups and downs as expected of any growing nation or individual for that matter. The country has come a long way. A number of landmark achievements in the economy could be identified in most sectors – human resource development, telecommunication, services and infrastructure, among many others.

However, the prevailing stable political climate and security could not be overlooked. It is viewed to be the striking achievement of the nation at this point in time, out of which outstanding achievements could be attained in all the sectors of the country, be it the economy, health or education.

Finally, Ghana and Russia will also mark their 60th year of establishment of diplomatic relations in 2018. How would you like to see the diplomatic relations developed in the next few years?

As stated earlier, as much as there exists a very good relations between Ghana and Russia, greater efforts need to be employed in fostering stronger economic ties. It is hoped that as Ghana and Russia commemorate 60 years of formal diplomatic relations, the level of economic cooperation between them would catch up with the well-developed bilateral political relations in the coming years. Emphasis should also be placed on developing ‘people-to-people’ relations, whereby the peoples of both countries would have better understanding of each other. Cultural cooperation, tourism, dissemination of information of each other’s customs and practices should be emphasised in bringing the people together for their mutual benefit.

Kester Kenn Klomegah is an independent researcher and writer on African affairs in the EurAsian region and former Soviet republics. He wrote previously for African Press Agency, African Executive and Inter Press Service. Earlier, he had worked for The Moscow Times, a reputable English newspaper. Klomegah taught part-time at the Moscow Institute of Modern Journalism. He studied international journalism and mass communication, and later spent a year at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. He co-authored a book “AIDS/HIV and Men: Taking Risk or Taking Responsibility” published by the London-based Panos Institute. In 2004 and again in 2009, he won the Golden Word Prize for a series of analytical articles on Russia's economic cooperation with African countries.

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Russia-Africa Summit: Welcome to Sochi!

Kester Kenn Klomegah

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photo credit: Kremlin website

Russian President Vladimir Putin has sent warm greetings to African leaders, business people and participants early October, signaling that everything is set for the first Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi, southern coastal city of Russia.

The message reads, in part: “Today, the countries of Africa are well on their way towards social, economic, scientific and technological development, and are playing a significant role in international affairs. They are strengthening mutually beneficial integration processes within the African Union and other regional and sub‑regional organizations across the continent.”

In recent years, the traditionally friendly ties of partnership between Russia and Africa have gained new momentum, both at a bilateral level and in various multilateral formats. In addition to preserving past experience of successful cooperation, have also managed to make significant new steps forward.

Trade and investment are growing dynamically, and new joint projects are under way in extractive industries, agriculture, healthcare, and education. Russian companies are ready to offer their scientific and technological developments to their African partners, and share their experience of upgrading energy, transport and communications infrastructures, according to President Putin.

It is, broadly, expected that the Summit will help identify new areas and forms of cooperation, put forward promote collaboration between Russia and Africa to a qualitatively new level and further contribute enormously to the development of bilateral relations between Russia and Africa.

According to the Organizing Committee, some 50 African heads of state have already confirmed their participation. It will feature more than 200 CEOs, ministers of key industries, and representatives of the expert community from Russia and Africa. The events will be attended by more than 3,000 representatives of African businesses.

The main event are the plenary session “Russia-Africa: Uncovering the Potential for Cooperation” during which the Presidents of Russia, Vladimir Putin, and Egypt, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, are expected to speak. A final declaration of the Summit titled “For Peace, Security, and Development” has been prepared and it includes items on the global and regional agendas that are important for Russia as well as comprehensive proposals on diverse ways to develop the full scope of future Russian-African relations.

In addition, at least 23 intergovernmental and interagency agreements and other agreements between African and Russian companies will be signed on the sidelines.

Under the theme “Russia and Africa: Uncovering the Potential for Cooperation” here are the key areas the Summit will discuss:-

*The Role of Media in Russian-African Relations

The African continent is becoming ever more important in today’s international order. Russian-African relations are adding an additional dimension to developments, especially with the boost provided by rapidly expanding links across a vast range of areas.

The media can, and indeed must be a decisive factor in building effective ties. Africa is frequently portrayed in the media as suffering from numerous intergovernmental, religious, and ethnic conflicts; political and economic instability; and an array of demographic and social problems. Knowledge of today’s Russia and the steps being taken by its political leaders to tackle global challenges is also given little space in the continent’s media landscape.

*Contribution of Nuclear Technologies in the Development of Africa

Today, African countries face major challenges. Rapid population growth and the worsening energy crisis are constraining economic growth on the continent. The poor transport infrastructure, access of the population to health services, low level of education and food supply insecurity are severely hampering Africa’s efforts to improve the quality of life in the region. It is clear that to solve these problems a large-scale development programme is required, including a strategy based on achieving the UN sustainable development goals. Nuclear technologies can become a driver for socio-economic development and a comprehensive solution to the systemic continent-wide problems.

*Humanitarian cooperation: Development Goals and Corporate Social Responsibility

Humanitarian partnership between Russia and African countries is becoming increasingly important. It is an area covering the development of human capital (education and culture), social programmes, healthcare, and access to essential benefits supporting people’s lives and national development in countries across the continent.

*Current Objectives in Developing the Housing Construction Market on the African Continent

Access to housing is one of the most pressing issues facing most African countries. Modern housing and a comprehensive approach to spatial planning can help ensure sustainable urban development and socioeconomic growth. We must now determine the needs of the housing construction market in African countries and identify joint solutions and ways of working together to achieve the most effective results in the shortest possible time. Practical steps aimed at identifying, supporting, and implementing joint projects are vital to such partnerships.

*Investing in Africa

In 2050, Africa’s total GDP will reach $29 tn, exceeding the combined GDP of US and Euro zone in 2012. Pan-African and national growth strategies as well as global thinktanks’ forecasts highlight the following growth areas and potential key drivers of the continent’s rise in the medium and long term: commodities; infrastructure (utilities and roads) and industrialization; demography; education; expanding middle class; access to financial services. These factors will define the continent’s investment outlook: future investment climate, current investments and their diversification. They have potential either to bolster or hamper the capital inflows.

*Economic Sovereignty for Africa: Problems and Solutions

In order to fulfil their development objectives and meet the needs of their citizens, countries in Africa are compelled to turn to foreign sources of financing. However, these mainly take the form of credit from international financial institutions and direct loans whereby the creditor imposes socioeconomic and political requirements which limit a country’s sovereignty. Sovereign bonds and other forms of borrowing on the capital market account for just a small proportion of African debt, but some countries on the continent are still unable to access this form of financing. As a result, more than USD 100 billion of borrowing potential is going untapped. More than USD 200 billion of existing debt could be refinanced under less stringent conditions.

*Russia and Africa: Energy for Development and Cooperation

Africa today has a population of over one billion people, huge resource potential and a platform for development. The continent has the potential to become one of the world’s largest economies and most populated regions by 2050 through organic growth and reform. Creating a foundation for growth at the very outset and using the continent’s mineral wealth in the most effective way possible requires the right energy policy.

*Transport Infrastructure on the African Continent: Opportunities to Implement Joint Projects

The transport sector in Africa possesses excellent potential for development. The continent’s railways offer great promise, as do joint ventures. Several African nations have prioritized the development of their transport infrastructures, particularly given transport’s ability to spur growth in key industries. The expansion of transport links brings with it additional jobs and expertise, and improves quality of life for the local population. Russia is able to offer technology and expertise at the very forefront of construction, planning, engineering, and equipment supplies. However, there remain a number of barriers to the market, as well as a lack of financing and country specific risks.

*Financing as an Essential Instrument of Economic Growth in Africa

The African continent has enormous economic potential and is actively integrating into the system of international economic relations. Prospects for Russia to increase its trade with African countries are directly linked to the diversification of its merchandise exports. However, this is only a realistic aim if international financing channels are put in place to facilitate growth in trade. Given the interest in Russia and Africa increasing economic cooperation, new solutions need to be found to implement ambitious trade projects.

*Russian–African Collaboration in the Diamond Industry

The diamond mining industry is key to the economies of several African countries, accounting for a significant portion of income from exports. Today, diamond mining faces a number of industry-wide challenges, attempts to tackle which will determine its future.

*The Future of the African Continent: Sovereignty and Traditional Values as Crucial Elements of a Development Strategy

In an era of globalization, protecting national values and priorities is a pressing concern. Economic and political sovereignty are the foundation of development in a polycentric world, and African countries are no exception. The African Union’s strategic framework Agenda 2063 highlights the importance of preserving African values and Pan-Africanism.

*Collaboration in Industry: Potential Areas of Growth

The development of high-tech and export-oriented industries in the Russian manufacturing sector has laid the groundwork for expanding areas of collaboration and launching ambitious long-term projects. What needs to be done to bring about a substantial improvement in collaboration between Russia and Africa? Which areas of cooperation are of most interest to Russian businesses and African nations? What projects and forms of Russian-African partnership are in need of financial support from parties such as Afreximbank?

*Doing Business in Africa: Challenges and Opportunities

Today, Africa is one of the most promising and fastest-growing regions of the world, with leading powers actively competing with one another. However, the continent should not be viewed as a single, monolithic market. Its economy varies from place to place in terms of type, scale, and structure. Africa today is a place of great political, cultural, ethnic, and religious diversity. As a result, each country has a unique business culture, requiring an individual approach from any company wishing to enter its market.

*Biosecurity: Current Projects and Opportunities for Cooperation

Global threats in today’s interconnected world, such as epidemics of infectious diseases, have a huge impact on the development of African nations. Robust healthcare systems and the ability to react to these threats can boost prosperity and help countries to thrive. Over the past few years, the African continent has had to tackle outbreaks of dangerous infectious diseases affecting thousands of lives and costing national economies millions of dollars. Russia has a great deal of experience in reacting to health threats, and today is implementing large-scale projects in countries around the world.

*Digital Transformation as a Driver of State Development

Today, digitalization is a major driver of state development. Effective e-government simplifies communication between people and the state, and helps create an effective system for departments to interact with one another. As a result, people gain quicker access to government services. In turn, this leads to greater user satisfaction, and substantial monetary savings.

*The Eurasian Economic Union and Africa: Trends and Opportunities to Develop Integrated Processes and Collaborate

Over the past few decades, economic integration processes have become an overarching trend in regional development throughout the world. They have helped member states to successfully embed themselves in the global economy and minimize the risk of crises occurring in various industries. Economic integration provides a new perspective on crucial projects related to infrastructure, logistics, energy, trade, agricultural and industrial development, digitalization, migration policy, and employment.

It offers additional opportunities to form common approaches to issues concerning the environment, renewable energy, and other factors determining scientific and technological progress. In view of the substantial expertise that regional associations offer, the next logical step is to foster dialogue between them and exchange experience at the forefront of integration, with the aim of optimizing economic integration processes and collaborating on the widest possible range of issues.

*Technological Sovereignty and Security in a Digital World: Solutions to Tomorrow’s Challenges

Africa’s fast-growing commercial sector is making rapid inroads in the virtual space. African companies are overcoming problems related to communication and financial infrastructure and choosing to immediately build their business online, implementing modern mobile solutions as they do so. However, the cyber security measures used by these fast-growing companies cannot keep up with their rapid development, leaving the companies vulnerable to cyber criminals.

In terms of governmental information systems, a monopolization of global IT markets by a handful of major Western corporations could result in financial losses in Africa, threatening citizens’ personal safety and Africa’s sovereignty at large. Russian companies are global leaders in digital security and are capable of protecting African businesses from cyber threats while ensuring digital sovereignty for African states. Success can be guaranteed through building partnerships between African and Russian companies and training up an IT security workforce in each country.

*Using Minerals in Africa for the Benefit of Its Peoples

There is a long history of Soviet and Russian specialists participating in and supporting the systemic geological study of a number of countries in the African continent. Their work on natural resource bases has done a great deal to aid mineral extraction. These countries now have the opportunity to leverage modern means of geological research and exploration, and in doing so, continue the comprehensive study of subsoil resources. This could lead to new and globally unique sites being developed, both on land and the continental shelf.

*Business Associations in Russia and Africa: A Starting Point for Long-Term Business Partnership

A major barrier hindering greater cooperation between the Russian and African business communities is a lack of awareness regarding the current state of markets, along with trade and investment opportunities. There is also an insufficient level of trust towards potential partners. These issues can be solved through establishing an effective system of communication between public business associations in Russia and African nations. These organizations can both serve the interests of entrepreneurs, and also guarantee their reliability and integrity.

*Russia and Africa: Science, Education, and Innovation for Economic Development

The accelerated development of both Russia’s and Africa’s economic potential is inextricably linked to scientific output and the improvement of general education and professional training. The 21st century has heralded the rise of the knowledge economy. Scientific research and development results in new products and industries, and is able to make a vital contribution to tackling current social and economic challenges facing our countries. The Soviet Union made an invaluable contribution to developing the scientific and educational potential of a number of African countries.

*A Safe Africa

Illegal migration, contraband, and criminal activity are all too frequent problems facing the African continent. The biggest threat of all though is terrorism. Experts agree that to ensure a country’s national security, a set of measures needs to be taken, along with preventative action to combat possible threats. The biggest vulnerabilities in this regard include weak border control, unprotected industrial facilities, and large urban areas where it becomes easy to disappear into a crowd. An effective set of measures has been developed in Russia to counter terrorism, curtail illegal activity, and provide dependable protection for citizens. Russian organizations and companies are ready and able to share their experience with African partners.

*Drivers of Growth in National Healthcare Systems

National healthcare systems are simply unable to cope economically with the burden of disease in Africa. Particular attention is given to infectious diseases; however, there is a growing need to fight against cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes. What’s more, the high cost of medicines and services, together with a shortage of vital modern equipment, is hindering access to medical care in African countries.

The lack of medical personnel is a particularly pressing problem. Cutting-edge technologies, such as mobile phones, blockchain, 3D printing, UAVs, and others clearly need to be applied as drivers of growth in this area. If used correctly, they could significantly improve the quality of medical services while cutting costs. The high number of people in Africa suffering from chronic diseases and requiring remotely administered care and treatment will spur the development of telemedicine.

*New Forms of Cooperation between Russia and Africa: Opportunities for Special Economic Zones Based on the Project to Establish a Russian Industrial Zone in Egypt

A new model for the development of production lines is based on closing the gap between production and delivery to the end consumer, minimising logistical and technical expenses and facilitating projects with a social dimension to successfully develop the local economy. Based on this logic, creating and facilitating conditions conducive to competitive production, including the production of quality hi-tech products, can be done most effectively through the use of points of entry.

Such points draw on the advantages of special (free) economic zones, which provide additional competitive advantages when gaining access to local markets. The project to create a Russian Industrial Zone – devised and implemented at the interface between governments, state development institutions and business communities – is a unique step toward ensuring state investment and implementing the industrial zone mechanism to support access to foreign markets for relevant companies.

*Digitalization in the Mining Industry: New Opportunities, Robots, Artificial Intelligence

Africa is a world leader in volume of reserves and the extraction of many valuable raw materials and fuels, over 90% of which is then exported. The mining industry forms the basis of many countries’ industrial capacity and exports and accounts for around 75% of all foreign investments. Traditional field development methods are becoming increasingly expensive. Productivity is dropping due to high maintenance costs, unreliable equipment, reactive troubleshooting, low capacity factors, and incidents related to safety violations.

*Russian Geological Exploration in Africa: Looking to the Past and to the Future

Africa is exceptionally rich in mineral reserves, although these have not yet been studied comprehensively. Compared with other continents, it boasts the largest ore reserves of manganese, chromite, bauxite, gold, platinum, cobalt, diamond, and phosphorite. It also has substantial oil, natural gas, graphite and asbestos reserves. Russian companies, for their part, have a wealth of experience leading exploratory work and are interested in working on the African continent.

*Creating a New Quality of Life in Africa

Africa has the fastest-growing population in the world. Over 50% of people living in Africa are under the age of 26. At the same time, the quality of life in the African continent is one of the lowest in the world.

*Women in Russian-African Relations: Gender Balance in Politics, the Economy and the Social Sector

Developing female entrepreneurship and leadership is currently of interest in every region of the world and is discussed at platforms of leading international organisations and associations. According to forecasts, women’s full involvement in the economy will allow global GDP to reach 28 trillion dollars by 2025, which is equal to that of the Chinese and US economies combined. On average, a woman in Europe currently earns 15% less than a man working in the same position. This gender gap is even more pronounced in Africa and Asia. In 2019, Russia presented an integrated systemic development model entitled ‘Women and the economy’ at UNIDO, which was formed on the basis of best practice in Russia and beyond.

*The Contribution to Global Sustainable Development Made by Young People in Russia and Africa

It is crucial that young people play a role in international cooperation and efforts to build an environment allowing young leaders and entrepreneurs to be fully involved in efforts to tackling global challenges. These aims also tally with the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Collaboration between young people in Russia and Africa can be strengthened by exchanging best practices and working together on specific projects. Leadership and startup communities play a particularly important role in establishing partnerships, as these are the most effective mechanisms for enacting a structural shift in the socioeconomic sphere.

*Oil and Gas Projects in Africa: Implementation Prospects

The African continent’s oil reserves are estimated at 129.2 billion barrels, or 7.5% of global reserves, and it produces 8.2 million barrels per day, representing 8.6% of global production. There is significant potential for the continent to increase production and monetize reserves. At the same time, Russian companies currently have a limited presence in the region. Broadening Russian-African cooperation could boost competition and efficiency in field development, and provide an additional stimulus for efforts to localize equipment and strengthen technological partnership.

*Sustainable Partnership in Agriculture: Institutions, Tools, and Guarantees

The steady development of African countries in the last few years, together with growing populations and income levels are all factors helping to boost agricultural production. However, a deficit of modern technology, lack of land suitable for farming, and a shortage of qualified personnel mean that the needs of the African market have not been fully met.

Russia’s unique geographic conditions, together with its vast land and water resources, provide the country with enormous agricultural potential. In the past few years, Russian companies have taken active steps to increase exports of agricultural products and food. Indeed, Russia is already one of the ten largest food suppliers to Africa. However, a range of barriers related to infrastructure is currently hindering effective trade. Removing these could help collaboration reach an entirely new level.

The Roscongress Foundation, a socially oriented non-financial development institution, is the organiser of the events, and the Russian Export Center and Afreximbank are the co-organisers of this first Russia-Africa Summit. Welcome to the first Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi and Modern Diplomacy also wishes you All the Best !

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Africa, no longer the Dark Continent

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Ethiopian PM, Abiy Ahmed was awarded the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize. He is the 12th winner from Africa. The Nobel Committee stated, that Abiy had been awarded the Nobel for his efforts towards resolving the border conflict with Eritrea (in September 2018,  Abiy and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki signed a peace deal in Jeddah).

A border war in the years between 1998 and 2000, had resulted in the deaths of a 100,000 people, was responsible for the displacement of over a million  people and the splintering of many families. The agreement has helped in reducing tensions between both countries and has led to a number of other important steps; it has paved the way for air connectivity (Ethiopian Airlines resumed its flight from Addis Abbaba to Asmara, the capital of Eritrea after two decades), resumption of communications between both countries (telephone lines had been disconnected in 1998), reduction of military hostilities and most importantly reuniting of families.

Abiy’s reaction

While reacting to the Nobel Committee’s decision, the Ethiopian Prime Minister said that this reward was not merely for Ethiopia, but the whole of Africa, and hoped that leaders in the region would work towards peace building.

Said the Ethiopian PM:

‘…It is a prize given to Africa, given to Ethiopia, and I can imagine how the rest of Africa’s leaders will take it positively to work on the peace-building process in our continent.”

Focus on Ethiopia due to economic growth

It would be pertinent to point out, that in recent years,the  outside world has begun to take note of Ethiopia, for its economic progress – in spite of numerous political challenges.

In recent years — almost a decade— the country’s economic growth was estimated at a whopping 10% according to International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates. In 2018, Ethiopia’s growth was estimated at well over8% (8.5), and was the fastest growing economy in Africa.One of the key factors for Ethiopia’s impressive economic performance, has been the shift from agricultural sector to Industry and Service sector along with favourable demographics.

Reforms introduced by Abiy Ahmed

Political Sphere

Abiy’s election has generated immense hope, as he has seemed genuine in his commitment to political and economic reforms. During his tenure, a number of political prisoners have been released. There is also a reasonable amount of press freedom. There have been no arrests of journalists ever since he has taken over (2018 was the first year since 2004, when not a single journalist was arrested).

Abiy’s reforms – both political and economic – are significant, because in many countries which have made economic progress, leaders have exhibited authoritarian tendencies. In many countries with economic promise, leaders have also failed to bite the bullet, as far as big bang economic reforms are concerned.  Abiy on the other hand, has reiterated his commitment to reforms.

Economic Sphere

In September 2019, Abiy Ahmed unveiled his vision for economic reform titled ‘Home grown Economic Reform’, which focuses on drawing greater public sector participation, reducing debts and enhancing foreign exchange reserves. While speaking on the occasion of the launch of the roll out of his government’s agenda, Abiy emphasized on the fact, that this  is holistic pro-job, pro-growth, and pro-inclusivity

Privatization of a number of state run enterprises, such as Ethiopian Airlines, Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation, and the sole telecom provider, Ethio Telecom, has also been high on the agenda of Abiy Ahmed, ever since he has taken over.

Challenges

This is not to say that all is well in Ethiopia. In June 2019, Ethiopia faced two attacks, one in the Amhara regional capital of Bahir Dar and the other in the federal capital of Addis Ababa. While Abiy Ahmed has made efforts towards reducing acrimony in the country’s polity, there are still numerous ethnic divisions, and  a large number of political players are seeking to cash in on these schisms.

Expectations from Abiy Ahmed are sky high, and the country faces numerous debts. While his agenda for reforms is well intentioned, and does represent a significant break from the fast, it is rather ambitious and it remains to be seen whether stakeholders involved in the implementation will be in sync with the PM.

Africa no longer the Dark Continent

For very long, many western commentators have consistently adopted a patronizing approach towards Africa. The Nobel Award to the Ethiopian PM comes at an interesting time. At a time when the whole world is becoming insular, 54 African countries have signed the AFCTA (African Continental Free Trade Area) agreement. AFCTA. This is the world’s largest free trade agreement since the World Trade Organisation, WTO)

AFCTA is a crucial step towards strengthening intra-regional trade linkages, and connectivity. AFCTA has the potential of connecting over 1 billion people, creating a bloc of over 3 Billion USD and pushing Intra-Africa trade by upto15-25% by 2040 (as of 2018, intra -regional trade was less than 20%).

 It would be pertinent to point out, that the Ethiopian PM who on repeated occasions has reiterated his commitment to Pan-Africanism, has been one of the fervent backers of AFCTA.

Africa is also being viewed as the world’s next manufacturing hub (China has already moved in a big way, though of course many countries are looking to other alternatives). Political stability and investor friendly policies off course are imperative.

Conclusion

One hopes, that other leaders in Africa follow Abiy’s footsteps in focusing on economic and political changes which could pave the way for sustainable growth and prosperity.

For long, the world’s attention has been driven by a Western narrative, in recent years Africa along with Asiahas begun to draw attention, due to its economic rise.If Africa can get its act together, and growth,  in countries like Bangladesh and Vietnam is sustained, we could witness the rise of new Non-Western groupings (consisting of developing countries from different regions). Such groupings will not be driven by  geo-political compulsions, geographic proximity or sheer size, but  by economic consideration and could play a pivotal role in shaping a new narrative, while promoting globalization, connectivity and free trade.

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Who is Ethiopian Premier Abiy Ahmed, winner of 2019 Nobel Peace Prize for Eritrea Accord?

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Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has been crowned the winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize for “his efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation” with his neighbor, Eritrea, beating 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg.

The prize was awarded on Friday for “his efforts for peace and international cooperation and for his decisive initiative to resolve the border dispute with Eritrea”. He has been accredited by the Norwegian Nobel Committee with ending the two-decade-long conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea as they announced the award in Oslo on Friday night.

“When Abiy Ahmed became Prime Minister in April 2018, he made it clear he wishes to resume peace talks with Eritrea,” the committee said. 

“In close cooperation with the President of Eritrea, Abiy Ahmed quickly worked out the principles for a peace agreement to end the long no peace stalemate between the two countries.”

Ahmed collaborated with Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki on a peace deal to end two decades of conflict and restored relations in July 2018 after years of hostility.

Since he took the reins of the second-most populous country in Africa in April 2018, the forty-three-year-old politician, also, lifted “state of emergency” in the country, granted amnesty to thousands of political prisoners, ended media censorship, legalized once-banned opposition groups, dismissed military and civilian leaders suspected of corruption and greatly increased the influence of women in Ethiopian political and community life “.

The country has one of the world’s few “gender-balanced” Cabinets and a female president, a rarity in Africa.

And for the first time, Ethiopia had no journalists in prison, media groups noted last year.

A statement from Prime Minister Ahmed’s office said that since taking office in 2018 he has made “peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation essential elements of his administration”.

“This victory and recognition is a collective victory for all Ethiopians and a call to strengthen our determination to make Ethiopia the new horizon of hope, a prosperous nation for all,” the statement added.

More recently, it has expanded its program of opening up a largely state-controlled economy and is now putting all its weight behind it to hold inclusive legislative elections in May 2020.

This year’s peace prize was the 100th to be awarded. According to the Nobel Institute, 301 candidates were vying for this year’s Peace Prize, making it the fourth highest prize ever. The record was 376 candidates in 2016. However, the list of candidates is revealed only 50 years after the awarding of the prize.

His supporters trust in his inexhaustible personal ambition to move the country forward. “I always told my friends: When this guy goes to power, you will see huge changes in Ethiopia,” says businessman Tareq Sabt, a close friend of the Prime Minister.

“We were fetching water from the river”

Born from a Muslim father and a Christian mother in a small town in the center west, Beshasha, Abiy Ahmed “grew up sleeping on the floor” in a house that had neither electricity nor water. “We were fetching water from the river,” he said in a September interview with Shepher FM radio, adding that he had only discovered electricity and asphalt after the age of 10 years. He holds master degrees in business administration and transformational leadership and a Ph.D. in traditional conflict resolution.

As a teenager, he became involved in the armed struggle against Mengistu Haile Mariam’s regime. The young man, a radio operator, taught there by necessity the language of the Tigrayans, the ethnic group with a large majority in this struggle which will form the hard core of the regime after the fall of Mengistu in 1991.

 Linear Ascension

He, then, began a linear rise in the ruling coalition, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), first in the security apparatus, then in politics.

He climbed the ranks of the army to become a lieutenant-colonel and in 2008 will be one of the founders of the National Intelligence Agency (INSA). In 2010, he swapped the uniform for the politician costume. He became a member of the Oromo party, a member of the ruling coalition and, in 2015, Minister of Science and Technology.

At the end of 2015, a popular anti-government protest movement grew in the two main communities of the country: the Oromo, where Abiy Ahmed was born, and the Amhara.

He’s the only one who could save the EPRDF

The movement, although violently repressed, eventually carried off Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, symbol of a coalition unable to provide answers to the aspirations of youth. In desperation, the EPRDF appointed Abiy Ahmed to save the situation, making him the first oromo to hold the post of prime minister. “It’s the only one who could save the EPRDF,” said Mohammed Ademo, a journalist who accompanied Abiy Ahmed on his first visit to the large Ethiopian diaspora in the United States in 2018. “My feeling is that he has been preparing for this moment all his life.

In fact, once in power, he multiplied the initiatives on the regional scene. In addition to the dramatic rapprochement with Eritrea, a nation that shares deep ethnic and cultural ties with his country, thus, conflict separated their families, complicated geopolitics, and claimed more than 80,000 lives, he played an important mediating role in the Sudanese political crisis and tried to revitalize the fragile South Sudanese peace agreement.

Grenade attack

In mid-2018, he was targeted by a grenade attack at a rally in Addis Ababa. A large group of soldiers confronted him in his office in what he called an attempt to derail his reforms. During his interview on Sheger radio, he said: “There have been many attempts so far, but death did not want to come to me.”
    
The prize, consisting of a gold medal, a diploma and a check of 9 million Swedish crowns (approximately 830,000 euros), will be awarded in Oslo on 10 December, the anniversary of the death of its founder, the industrialist and philanthropist Alfred Nobel (1833-1896).

In a will written a year before his death, the inventor of dynamite had wished to see rewarded “those who over the past year have rendered humanity the greatest services.”

As a reminder, Nadia Murad and Denis Mukwege jointly won the award in 2018. Murad, a 26-year-old Yazidi woman, became the voice and face of those who survived the sexual violence perpetrated by the terrorist group “ISIS”.  Dr. Mukwege, aged 64, is a Congolese gynecological surgeon who has treated thousands of women in her war-torn country.

Since 1901, 99 Nobel Peace Prizes have been handed out to individuals and 24 organizations. While the other prizes are announced in Stockholm, the peace prize is awarded in the Norwegian capital, Oslo.

This week, 11 Nobel laureates have been named. The others received their awards for their achievements in medicine, physics, chemistry, and literature.

From our partner Tehran Times

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