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Friday, 10 April 2015 22:00

EUBFE Conference Paves the Way for Increased Investment and Business Opportunities in Ethiopia

EUBFE_Photo_1By Melanie Wollenweber / Georgia Gilson

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, April 10, 2015 (EUBFE) -- Reform was high on the agenda for government and private sector participants at a well-attended business climate improvement conference held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on April 1. The ‘3 rd EUBFE Conference on Business and Investment Climate’ brought EU and Ethiopian Government officials together with businessmen, investors and other stakeholders to discuss the way forward for investment in Ethiopia.

A reform agenda was presented in the form of a ‘Road Map’, which identified barriers to success for businesses and solutions to the main legal and regulatory constraints affecting business in Ethiopia.


The Conference was opened by H.E. Tadesse Haile, State Minister of Industry, H.E. Chantal Hebberecht, Head of the EU Delegation to Ethiopia and Chris de Muynck, Chairman of the EU Business Forum in Ethiopia (EUBFE).


Leading international experts presented Conference participants with their perspectives on best practices in licencing and customs issues, while others presented valuable lessons from Mauritius and key East African countries, such as Kenya and Tanzania.


Conference Working Groups focussed on the specific ways in which policy could improve the business environment, with four Groups covering: taxation, reducing the administrative burden on business, licensing and customs issues.


Moderated by leading Ethiopian and international experts, the Working Groups brought to the fore strong ideas to enhance communication and information flows from the Government to the private sector, eliminate regulatory duplications and simplify the customs and taxation systems.


Head of the EU Delegation to Ethiopia, H.E. Chantal Hebberecht, explained how this concentration on four key areas for improvement reached the Conference objectives for fruitful discussion on business creation and investment for sustainable economic development in Ethiopia.


"The four working groups succeeded to identify very precisely the main difficulties met by the private sector in Ethiopia, also the target activities and priorities needed to improve the business climate. We now have a tool to better structure our dialogue on this important topic,” said H.E. Hebberecht.


The conference constitutes a milestone in a project funded by the ACP Business Climate Facility (BizClim) and has presented the conclusions of a major study into ways of improving the investment and business environment in Ethiopia, to continue the overall process. The project seeks to provide constructive foundations for building consensus on how to address key relevant issues affecting Ethiopia´s business climate.


It also aims to devise a process that will enable the public and private sectors to work more effectively together to make Ethiopia a better investment destination.


"As Kenya looks to further grow its economy and encourage more direct foreign investment, the whole East African region could be sharing best practice experiences. The EUBFE Conference in Ethiopia could be one such sample of how business development can be boosted in a sustainable way. Kenya has tremendous potential for industry growth, therefore a strategy for identifying barriers for investment and finding solutions to improve the business climate is essential," said Mr Charles N. Kahuthu, the Regional Coordinator & CEO of the East African Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (EACCIA).


Mr Kahuthu was speaking at the EUBFE Conference about the mission of the EACCIA to help strengthen the private sector in East Africa by influencing policy at national and regional/Community level, supporting national chambers and strengthening cooperation and partnership between the public and private sectors across the East African Community. In essence, this is what Ethiopia is doing on a national level through the EU Business Forum in Ethiopia, but also regional cooperation is essential for the East African region to grow and prosper sustainably into the future.


Mr Kahuthu is Kenyan, and was a speaker at the EUBFE Conference, giving a East African regional perspective on improving business environments. The EACCIA counts Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, Zanzibar and Rwanda among its membership.


“We are very impressed with the high level participants, and with their serious engagement in the conference working groups. We hope that our proposed Road Map process, a practical modality to elaborate a reform process based on a strong consensus, will gain traction among Ethiopian stakeholders”, says Paolo von Schirach, Team Leader for EQUINOCCIO, EUBFE Investment Climate Study.


The Conference was also attended by H.E. Commissioner Ato Fitsum, Director General of the Ethiopian Investment Commission (EIC), who described recent reforms already undertaken for the improvement of business climate and declared, “With the conclusion of the BizClim project, I am hopeful that the new Technical Committee composed by the European Delegation and the Ethiopian Government will work to improve the Ethiopian investment climate. On behalf of the Ethiopian Investment Commission, I would reiterate our commitment and vision of making Ethiopia one of the top investment destination in Africa.”


The stakeholders involved, the private sector representatives and the Ethiopian Government manifested a keen interest in continuing the reform dialogue that took place at the Conference, potentially following the process envisaged by the Roadmap.


“As we reflect our strategies and actions on moving forward, it is imperative we do not lose focus on the bigger picture, the improvement of the business climate for European investors in Ethiopia, and that we get inspired by international best practices. The road ahead is still hard and arduous and we need to be creative in our collective and individual responses to our common concerns,” said Chris de Muynck, Chairman of EUBFE.


The Conference culminated with the symbolic handover of the Roadmap produced by the EUBFE project to the Ethiopian Investment Commission (EIC). H.E. Commissioner Ato Fitsum Arega, Director General of EIC, received the roadmap from Ambassador Chantal Hebberecht, Head of Delegation of the European Union, Mr. Chris de Muynck Chairman of EUBFE and Mr. M’Hamed Cherif, BizClim Director.


EUBFE: The EUBFE was set-up in response to the need for both a platform for networking and information exchange between EU businesses and a systematic dialogue with the Ethiopian authorities. The EUBFE operated under the umbrella of the EU Delegation to Ethiopia. It is managed by a Steering Committee of 10 to 12 members representing the EU business community in Ethiopia and is headed by a Bureau made of a Chairman, a Treasurer and a Secretary. The EU Business Forum in Ethiopia aims to make it easier for existing EU companies to do business in Ethiopia.


BizClim: The ACP Business Climate Facility (BizClim) is a programme of the ACP Secretariat funded by the European Union, which provides technical assistance aimed at improving regulations, legislation, the institutional set up and financial measures in ACP countries or regions, with the goal of promoting an improved legislative and regulatory environment that will support sustainable development. BizClim’s mission is carried out through support to ACP Governments, regional organisations, and private sector organisations. http://www.bizclim.org/



The EUBFE Conference: http://www.eubfe-conference.eu/

The EU Business Forum in Ethiopia: http://www.eubfe.eu/

The Delegation of the EU to Ethiopia: http://www.eeas.europa.eu/delegations/ethiopia/index_en.htm


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