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Saturday, 17 July 2010 12:51

Russia and Ethiopia: More Active Business Ties

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, July 17, 2010 (WIPRC) - Recently Walta Information and Public Relations Center held and exclusive interview with  H.E. Mr. Mikhail Y. AFANASIEV, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation to the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.


The interview excerpts:


Q: Would brief us the historical background of the relations between Ethiopia and  Russia?  

A: Throughout the times the relations between Russia and Ethiopia were invariably marked by friendship and mutual trust. Thus, when Italy declared its protectorate over Ethiopia in 1890, the Russian Empire was the only European country that refused outright to recognize the Italian claims. It was unambiguously stated to the Italian Government that Russia deemed Ethiopia to remain an independent nation and while maintaining relations with the latter the Russian Side would not request any approval or mediation of the Rome cabinet.


When Italy failed to induce Emperor Menelik II to recognize its protectorate by way of legal tricks and launched an open aggression against Ethiopia in 1896, it was once again Russia that stood for the Ethiopian cause and supported Menelik by supplying military hardware and sending to Ethiopia a medical team led by General N.K. Shvedov to provide medical assistance to those sick and wounded. In 1900-1901, soon after the British suppressed the Mahdists’ rebellion and took control of the Sudan, Ethiopia and Great Britain found themselves on the brink of war because the latter claimed a considerable part of Ethiopian territory bordering with the Sudan. It was mostly due to Russia’s determined position, as well as to its substantial assistance in strengthening the Western borders of Ethiopia that kept London from anti-Ethiopian military adventure. 


In 1935, when fascist Italy once again unleashed an all-out war against Ethiopia, the Soviet Union was the only great power that stood firmly for Ethiopia and strongly condemned the Italian aggression in the League of Nations.       


During the World War II our countries were allies within the Anti-fascist Coalition and after the Victory our relations began to grow steadily.       


And the last but not least. During the Somali aggression of 1977-1978 Moscow once again strongly supported Ethiopia, inter alia, by supplying weapons and sending military advisers. All these historical facts illustriously testify to the friendship and mutual sympathy that our two countries and peoples traditionally show to each other.


Q: How would you describe the current status of the bilateral relations in various sectors?

A: During the Soviet period our country supported Ethiopia in various areas. When somebody tries to reduce that assistance to arms supplies only it is either a blatant lie or a mere ignorance. In reality, quite a number of large-scale development projects were realized here with the Soviet assistance in the fields of industry, education, agriculture (for instance, a well-known irrigation project in Gambella). Big industrial enterprises and generating capacities were constructed (for example, the largest of that period and still one of the most significant Ethiopian hydropower plant in Melka Wakena). Comprehensive geological surveys were conducted, various mineral deposits were discovered (many of them are currently being exploited or prepared for extraction).


Nowadays such sort of activities are usually described as “official development assistance”. And it does not really matter that at that time the Soviet assistance was to some extent conditioned by certain ideological or political considerations. Whatever the reasons were, one can safely say that in the 1970-1980s the USSR was the largest economic donor of Ethiopia contributing greatly to the development of almost every sphere of the latter’s economy, as well as conducting a large-scale training of Ethiopian students (suffice it to say that over 20 thousand Ethiopians studied in the USSR).


With the end of the Cold War the basic principles and targets of foreign policy in my country and in the whole world have considerably changed. Our economic relations are no longer based on political or ideological factors. Moreover, nowadays it is not public but private enterprises that are the leading economic operators in Russia.  In their activities they are guided mainly by market rules and principles (profit generation, secure and rapid return of investments, etc.). For obvious reasons the relations with the CIS countries – the former Soviet republics – are at the helm of Russia’s foreign policy agenda. Thus, we render a significant economic and other forms of assistance to some of these states (for instance, to Armenia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and others).


However, in the last few years the African direction of the Russian foreign policy has become increasingly significant and active. This trend, inter alia, has had a positive effect on the relations between Russia and Ethiopia. Though the last year was marked by the culmination of the global financial crisis, 2009 proved to be the most economically successful in the Russian-Ethiopian relations since 1991. Thus, the overall bilateral trade totaled about $170 mln, increasing 1,6 times as compared with 2008 and 4,8 times as compared with 2007.


In 2009, for the first time in the post-Soviet period the Russian Federation took an active part in a regular Addis Ababa International Trade Fair. More than 20 Russian companies, organizations and agencies displayed their exhibits at a special Russian pavilion. Several Russian participants signed a number of contracts and protocols of intent with their Ethiopian and other foreign partners.  A «Russia Day» was also held during the Fair. 


During the same period a Meeting of the co-Chairs of the Russian-Ethiopian Intergovernmental Commission (IGC) on Economic, Scientific, Technical and Trade Cooperation was held in Addis Ababa. It should be noted that both Russia and Ethiopia attach great importance to this mechanism in terms of promoting bilateral trade and economic partnership. The next IGC Meeting is scheduled for the end of the current year.


The imbalance in bilateral trade is still there with about 97% of it consisting of the Russian exports (mainly fertilizers, cellulose, wheat, factory equipment, vehicles spare parts, etc.).  The major items of Ethiopian export to Russia are agricultural products – coffee, cut flowers, oil seeds and leather. We expect the bilateral trade volume of the current year to exceed the figures of the previous year. Thus, according to the data provided by the Ethiopian Revenues and Customs Authority, during the five months of 2010 the bilateral turnover has surpassed $90 mln. and is steadily growing.


Q: What about the investment and economic cooperation between our two countries?

A: About two dozens of projects with full or partial participation of the Russian investors have so far been registered in Ethiopia. The total volume of expected investments exceeds $80 mln. Unfortunately, the global financial and economic crisis delayed the practical implementation of these projects. The absence of direct air transportation between Russia and Ethiopia is another factor hindering the establishment of more active business ties. By the way, the options for resuming the direct flights are currently under consideration.


We also deem it necessary for the Governments of our two countries to step up their support to the Russian and Ethiopian business communities in implementation of joint projects. In this regard, it is important to arrange a regular exchange of information between business partners on markets and investment opportunities, as well as to establish direct contacts between Russian and Ethiopian Chambers of Commerce, unions and associations of entrepreneurs, Russian and Ethiopian regional states and entities. In this regard we support the initiative of our Ethiopian partners to sign a Memorandum of Understanding between the Ethiopian Chamber of Commerce and Sectorial Associations and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation.


The Russian Embassy in Ethiopia is actively engaged in awareness raising and consultative activities to stimulate the participation of Russian companies in trade and industrial exhibitions and fairs that are regularly held in Addis Ababa. As I have already noted, Russian participants of these events sometimes sign contracts and documents of intent with their Ethiopian and foreign partners. As a recent example I’d like to mention the Russian company «Unitech» that specializes in manufacturing welding and metal-rolling equipment used in construction works. Ethiopian partners show a vivid interest in the products of this company. Both sides are currently considering possibilities for launching a «Unitech»’s manufacture facility in Ethiopia.


In January this year, the Russian company «Power Machines» took part in the East Africa Electricity Exhibition held in Addis Ababa. After negotiations, among others, with the management of the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation, the Russian representatives expressed their readiness to participate in feasibility studies and delivery of high-tech machinery for projected hydropower plants in Ethiopia. 


Both sides express mutual interest in developing agricultural cooperation. Thus, the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Russian Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Control are strengthening the working contacts they established last year.


Russia and Ethiopia are interested in establishing and enhancing cooperation in other sectors of economy as well. In particular, we see good prospects for mutually beneficial partnership in the fields of transport, water resources, mining, etc. Efforts are taken to step up bilateral cooperation in humanitarian and cultural spheres. In particular, we are exploring possibilities of sending qualified Russian specialists to Ethiopia and training more Ethiopians in Russia.   


Russia provides food aid to Ethiopia. For example, this year we delivered here 2.850 mt of wheat worth $2 mln. Approximately the same amount of the Russian humanitarian aid was supplied to Ethiopia last year.  The year 2010 is also remarkable in the history of our bilateral relations due to the fact that recently we signed an intergovernmental agreement on terms of accommodation of the Ethiopian diplomatic mission in Moscow. It should be noted that these terms are exceptionally beneficial for the Ethiopian Side. Considerable amounts of money that our Ethiopian partners had been spending every year to pay for the rent of the Embassy’s premises can be allocated now for the implementation of various development projects in this country. Therefore, this agreement may be considered to be one more evidence of the truly friendly relations between our two countries.


Q: What about the political relations? Is there any common stance of the two countries at the international level between the two countries?

 A: Russia and Ethiopia traditionally maintain highly intensive and fruitful dialogue and interaction in the political sphere. Certainly, the dialogue and interaction may and should be extended, for instance, to the interparliamentary relations that are still underdeveloped. This fact was particularly obviated during the visit to Addis Ababa in April 2009 of the delegation of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation that participated in the 120th Assembly of the Interparliamentary Union.


The ties between our two countries’ regions are also underdeveloped although some headway has been recently made in this regard. Thus, during his visits to Ethiopia in November 2009 and March 2010 Professor V.S.Yagya, Deputy Chairman of St.-Petersburg Legislative Assembly had fruitful discussions with high-level Ethiopian officials on various issues of bilateral cooperation including the establishment of partner relations between Addis Ababa and St. Petersburg. Speaking of political cooperation on the international arena, I can safely call it excellent and exemplary since Russia and Ethiopia have close interests and similar stands on the majority of priority issues of international agenda such as the UN role, formation of a truly safe and democratic world order and establishment of a comprehensive system of international security, including that at the African continent, reorganization of the global system of financial and economic relations, combating international terrorism, etc. Russia and Ethiopia continue a good tradition of rendering support to initiatives and candidates of each other within the UN and other international fora.


Q: Do you have any comment on the recent election in Ethiopia?

 A: Speaking about the general elections recently conducted in Ethiopia I am pleased to note that they were held in commendably peaceful atmosphere. All political parties had the opportunity to express their positions and opinions freely in the print and electronic media. For the first time in the Ethiopian history the political parties which participated in the election campaign received subsidies from the state budget. These facts testify to the maturing of the Ethiopian democratic institutions, including the National Electoral Board which showed a high level of efficiency and competence while organizing the electoral process. The elections were conducted with full observance of principle of secret ballot, the voters’ turnout was very high. It means that the Ethiopian people made their sovereign choice for the next five years and this choice should be respected.


Я никогда не "Скачать страна чудес серьга"слыхал, чтобы они появлялись в прерии.

Патер "Ситуационный план расположения объекта"снова принялся усиленно размышлять о том, "Звуки скачать самолёт"что с ним произошло, как он попал в вагон и "Знамения скачать"зачем он, собственно, едет в Брук именно с Девяносто "Скачать песни контакт"первым полком и под конвоем.

заклинание адских сил "Скачать леонидов максим"нечто совершенно иное.

В отряде были "Сочинение куприн изумруд"люди, которые быстро повернули "Краткое содержание 451 градус по фаренгейту краткое содержание"бы обратно, будь они предоставлены самим себе.

Она умолкла, и в ту "Краткое содержание морской волк"же минуту из "Беслан песня скачать"леса донесся лошадиный топот.

Они еще не отказались от естественных прав человека.


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