Ethiopia allows Chinese firm to acquire unspecified stake in state-owned Shipping and Logistics Services Enterprise – Awramba Times

By Dawit Kebede

Awramba Times (Addis Ababa) The government of Ethiopia has allowed a Chinese firm to acquire unspecified stake in state-owned Shipping and Logistics Services Enterprise (ESL), one of the nation’s most prized assets, sources disclosed to Awramba Times.

In a press conference held last Monday, Ethiopian prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn has disclosed his government’s aim to offer foreign firms stakes in some state-owned companies to help modernize the businesses in a shift from stressing state investment to drive growth.

The move would include offering a stake in state-owned Ethiopian Shipping and Logistics Services Enterprise, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn told a news conference, without naming other firms or giving the size of any stakes on offer.

“When foreign companies get into these kinds of companies, they will obviously bring technologies, know-how and managerial capability,” Prime minister Hailemariam was quoted by Reuters as saying. Referring to Ethiopian Shipping and Logistics, the premiere said: “The newly inaugurated railway will substantially decrease the cost of transportation in this country. But the logistics issue is critical as well.” he added.

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However, high ranking employees of the enterprise, whom Awramba Times spoke to have strongly decried the government’s decision to sell out one of the country’s money-spinning public assets.

Formerly known as Ethiopian Shipping Lines S.C. which later changed its name to Ethiopian Shipping & Logistics Services Enterprise in November 2011, was established in 1964 with two share holders (the government 49% and a US firm 51%, which the government later bought back the 51% of the shares). According to the employees, the company
provides coastal and international marine and internal water transport services from/to Djibouti port through the ports of Gulf and Indian Sub Continent, China, Korea, Japan, Singapore, South Africa, and Indonesia.

It also offers port/terminal services, such as loading and unloading import and export goods; reefer container services; stuffing and unstaffing of containers; handling non-containerized goods; providing temporary storage for containers, goods, and vehicles; and container cleaning and repair and other related services.

Kebour Ghenna, former president of Addis Ababa Chamber of Commerce and Sectoral Association said that the proposal to sell the ESL is outrageous and it amounts to disinheritance of future Ethiopians. “No debate, no contest, no explaining to the public what other options were considered that could have avoided the sale of this national treasure” Kebour Ghenna said in his recent piece distributed on social media. According to Kebour, what’s more disappointing is the fact that policymakers, in the last couple of months, have been promising to be transparent, open, and inclusive but judging from events on the ground. “we have not moved an inch in that direction…my heart was made heavier when I noted the absence of any debate on the issue” he added.

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Kebour also said that while politicians focus on getting through the next few fiscal years with minimum pain, foreign Chinese companies are thinking about how to get rich off of shipping business for the next three-quarters of a century.

Officials of the Ethiopian Shipping & Logistics Services Enterprise were not immediately available for Awramba Times’ queries on the matter.

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