By Tsadenna Gebru
The Ethiopian Investment Commissions (EIC) is waiting for the approval of a name to launch a new investor-friendly website. The site has been developed by a Brussels-based company, with the support of the European Union and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).
The EIC launched the website at an event hosted at the Hilton Addis on October 16, 2014, with a temporary name while it sorts out a proposed name with ethio telecom, according to Yohannes Tilahun, the senior director of the public-private partnership (PPP) in the Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA), whose agency has partnered with the EIC during the process, according to Yohannes. The ATA opened the PPP section in February 2013.
The EIC and the ATA came together in this project after the Ministry of Agriculture requested that the ATA open a section for PPP in order to facilitate the creation of a supply chain for the crop yields of smallholder farmers, which the Ministry had aimed to double.
In a three-year plan, the EIC had cited changing the Commission’s website, www.eia.gov.et, as one of the targets for the first year, Yohannes said.
The development of the new website was caused by the World Bank’s ranking, issued in the World Bank’s Global Investment Promotion Best Practices (GIPB) report in 2012, where websites from Sub- Saharan African countries collectively were scored in the 45th percentile. The World Bank scores these websites every three years, and the new site comes in time for the 2015 assessment, says a joint press release from the COMESA’s Regional Investment Agency, the EIC and the ATA.
Yohannes and Fitsum Arega, the EIC’s commissioner, personally contacted the European Union (EU) in Addis Abeba for assistance to develop the website. The EU already had allocated a budget for four COMESA member countries, of which Ethiopia would be one, through the COMESA’s Regional Investment Agencies (RIA). The other three were Kenya, Sudan and Swaziland. Except for Kenya, all the other countries are to get completely new websites, whereas Kenya are to receive assistance for the system it already has in place.
The EIC’s old website was deemed to have had little to offer to investors, was lacking information, and had no interaction and rather unattractive features, according to officials speaking at the launch, Fitsum said.
The EU chose PBLH International Consulting from Brussels, Belgium, to develop the website. Now, PBLH is training IT staff for the maintenance of the website, Yohannes says.
This site, according to Valeria Di Fiori, from PBLH, is simple and attractive, with easy navigation and relevant and up-to-date information, as well as a user friendly site map
It is equipped with an information centre, archives and a business to business feature, which acts as a classified section for investors who want to find other investors – both foreign and local. The other more important feature of the website, only visible to EIC staff, is the investment tracking system, which conducts customer relations management and will record the interactions and relationships the EIC makes with potential investors or existing ones, which will no longer be conducted on paper.
The EIC says that Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to Ethiopia is growing, with 17.5 billion Br registered between 2010/12 and 18.47 billion Br in 2013/14, according to Fitsum. All of that was, however, despite the current website not advertising investing in Ethiopia, he says. Therefore, the EIC devised a new and improved plan to further promote investment in Ethiopia, hence, the new website, according to Fitsum.
“Through this website, the EIC is determined to go beyond providing basic information and reach investors in advance to address their concerns and make the experience of investing in Ethiopia smooth. The website is a key tool to assist the Ethiopian investment commission in focusing its efforts towards maximising the benefits of FDI,” reads the press release.
The Ethiopian Investment Agency (EIA) is a government agency established in 1992 to promote private investment, primarily FDI. The overall activities of the Agency used to be supervised and followed up by an Investment Board, which was chaired by the Minister of Industry. But since the change into a Commission as of June 2014, it is supervised by a board of ministers chaired by the Prime Minister. By being a commission, it also acquires new powers. Besides having better promotional value, the EIC also offers never-before-given services, such as work permits to foreigners, duty free privileges, centralised trading services and additional notarisation services that lessen the strenuous process of investing. This means that processes that previously took weeks, even months, will now take a week or less, says Fitsum.
The EIC accommodates other service providers relevant for investors at its facilities. These include the Ethiopian Development Bank (EDB), the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (CBE), the Ethiopian Immigration Authority and the Ethiopian Customs Revenues Authority (ERCA). The Privatisation Public Enterprises Supervising Agency (PEPSA) also moved out of the EIC building, creating more space, said Fitsum.
“This might seem like a small matter, but it is not. For example, the acquisition of a tax identification number (TIN), which used to be arduous and time consuming, will now take about 30 minutes,” Fitsum claimed.
The EIC was ranked 125th by the World Bank out of 189 countries for ease of work, in the 2014 Doing Business report.
The ATA was established to promote agricultural sector transformation, through supporting existing structures in order to systematically address hurdles in attaining growth and food security.