DUBAI: Ethiopian business leaders today (9 February) spoke of their country's untapped potential, describing themselves as “a new-age investment destination” during a panel discussion at Expo 2020 Dubai.

Held at the Terra Pavilion, the conversation centred around ways in which the export market could be improved and expanded, with particular focus on infrastructure and agricultural processing.

Known as the birthplace of Arabica coffee beans, this “black gold” is roasted and exported, with coffee the biggest commodity in the world after crude oil. The nation also has successful export businesses in avocados, meat, cereals, fruit and vegetables, but the message was clear that there is a lot of room for potential growth in these areas, and many others are as yet untouched.

Lelise Neme, Commissioner, Ethiopian Investment Commission, said: “Ethiopia’s export industry is based on agriculture, so we want to maximise the potential for the raw products, but we also want to focus on agroprocessing as well. We are a population of 110 million and are the gate to East Africa. Some say Ethiopia is landlocked, but we say it is a connected country, and that is how we can engage the African market.”

She explained the potential of the country’s geographical position has been improved with the privatisation of infrastructure, in particular a USD 1 billion deal signed last year with DP World – Global Trade Partner of Expo 2020 Dubai – and due to run for the next 10 years. Until now, the safer option has been to export products with a longer shelf-life, but these improvements allow for more options.

Further discussion centred around the young, trainable workforce and technological improvements that help with foreign investment.

Jim Stenman, a Swedish-Ethiopian journalist and Founder, World1Media, pointed out that “Ethiopia has been one of the fastest growing economies in the world, in the last decade” but that there was potential for so much more, that would “create jobs, and supercharge the economy”.

Other areas for potential investment include expanding the tourist industry, mining for products such as gold, gems and iron ore, and further development of the natural gas and petroleum industry.

Neme concluded that investors should act soon as things are moving quickly: “They should start in the next few months. People have to take this time to invest in our country, it is time to invest in Ethiopia.”

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