President Mulatu Teshome (file photo).
By Abiy Hailu
On Sunday’s edition, The Ethiopian Herald published the first part of the interview President Dr. Mulatu Teshome held with the Ethiopian Press Agency in relation to May 28 where he discussed the overall progress of the nation over the last 26 years. Here follows the second and last part of the interview. Excerpts:
In your view, what is the current state of Ethiopia’s diplomacy, particularly, its economic diplomacy?
As in the case of other countries, internal strength is the base for Ethiopia’s diplomacy. When a nation is strong internally, its strength would be reflected outside. When it is weak internally, it would be hard to say if there is diplomatic engagement at all. Thus, it is our internal strength that is the base for our diplomacy.
Ethiopia has managed to change its bad image. This is a value addition to our diplomacy. And the basic thing is that we have first ensured peace and stability internally. Then, we have been striving to bring about peace and stability in neighbouring countries in Somalia, South Sudan and Abyie (an area with a special administrative status” by the 2004 Protocol on the Resolution of the Abyie Conflict in the comprehensive peace agreement between Sudan and South Sudan). And we have achieved tremendous success in this regard. The works we have done in Somali with AMISOM, to accomplish UN’s mission has greatly contributed in uplifting Ethiopia’s diplomacy.
Let’s see the case of Abyie separately. After the independence of South Sudan, there was a need for an international peacekeeping mission to be deployed and prevent Sudan and South Sudan from entering into further conflict over Abyie. The two conflicting countries did not agree on where the peacekeepers should come from. They did not agree on Arab countries or even Bangladesh, Colombia and other Latin American countries. But they both agree on Ethiopia to deploy its peacekeeping mission in the area. This is a springboard for diplomatic success that demonstrated Ethiopia has no hidden agenda. We do not have hidden agenda on our neighbours.
Our diplomatic success is the reflection of our current situation. It is also a result of the positive role Ethiopia plays for neighbouring countries, for the continent and the world as a whole and also the fact that Ethiopia is the seat of the AU and centre of continental politics and diplomacy.
Then, the dependable peace and stability then attracted huge sum of investment to the country. Investors from Europe and Asia started to see the country as preferred investment destination. They came to understand that they can make negotiations to ensure mutual interest with Ethiopia.
The country has enormous natural and human resources. In the countries where I worked and approached to attract investment, there is a common view of their investors towards Ethiopia. Ethiopia is a country where there is sustainable peace and hence the investors came to believe that if they invest in Ethiopia, they would be profitable sustainably.
Diplomatically, we have been campaigning for two causes in recent times. We have been campaigning for Ethiopia to become a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and for our World Health Organization (WHO) Director General candidate.
What presidents, ambassadors or diplomats tell us, be it for me, the prime minister or the foreign affairs minister is that what shows Ethiopia’s diplomatic success is that, out of the 192 members of the United Nations, 185 have voted for Ethiopia to become non-permanent member of the Security Council. The other thing that demonstrates this case is the election of Dr. Tedros with majority vote. I also took part myself in these campaigns.
Pakistan had also a candidate for WHO’s Director General’s position. The country is member of the Organization of Islamic Countries which is chaired by Saudi Arabia. Thus, we had to make discussion with Saudi. The other candidate was from England, a country which is a member of the Commonwealth, comprising more than 70 countries. It is in this kind of situation that we became victorious. This shows that Ethiopia’s active participation in international affairs and its democracy have been strengthening from time to time. Hence, this is the result of and reflection of our diplomacy and strength.
As a diplomat, you have conducted a successful job in brining various investors from China and Turkey to Ethiopia. What change have these investors brought about in Ethiopia?
I can say that, especially investors from China and Turkey came to invest in Ethiopia directly or indirectly because of me. They say they came because of me. They have been doing a great job but there is gap in handling them properly.
For instance, as per our policy, a foreign investor can access loan from the Development Bank of Ethiopia. 70 per cent of their investment could be provided as a loan by the bank. 30 per cent would be covered by themselves. But once they start production, all of their products have to be exported. This is where the problem arises. They argue that while Ethiopia is importing textile from Taiwan, Thailand Bangladeshi and Kenya, why not they are allowed to sell their products in the Ethiopian market. This is one thing.
The second thing is that there is a quota. If they are not able to earn 20 or 40 million USD from export, the incentives would be lifted. That is where the disagreement starts and that is why some companies failed. But I believe in the future these problems would be resolved. In fact, there are also companies from the above mentioned countries who earned up to 100 million USD. And various countries from Africa and the world are seeing the Ethiopian textile industry as a model in this regard.
And this would not stop soon. When development is based on knowledge, it would not be dormant and stay at one point all the time. First, what we want to teach our youth is that migrating to other countries without having the necessary skill and knowledge is similar to slavery. Second, migrating to countries that do not have a legal overseas employment agreement with Ethiopia would put them in a great danger.
Third, they do not have to be misled by illegal traffickers. In addition, there are also other attitudinal problems and traditional beliefs that forces the youth to migrate to foreign countries. Hence, the responsibility should not be left to the government alone. Of course, the government would do its best. If there are 10 million job seekers, it would be impossible to find jobs for all of them today. But the policies and strategies have been formulated. It would be implemented as per the industrialization plan of the nation.
We cannot enforce the children of the farmers to always remain in agriculture. They would not accept us. As we pursue industrialization, their lives have to be improved also. They have to be engaged in the initial stages of the industrialization process. Hence, the society has to involve in the movement to curb the issue of migration.
In your view, what image would Ethiopia has after ten years.
As per our plan, Ethiopia would join the rank of middle income countries in nine years time. I believe that we have to set preconditions to realize this goal.
First we have to achieve sustainable economic development. We have to get hand to hand to sustain the double digit economic growth. Peace is central to sustain the ongoing development. The major achievement of May 28 is sustainable peace and stability. This is the problem of some African countries such as Somalia. Since there is no peace, they could not formulate appropriate development policies.
So if we want to achieve a middle income status within ten years time, we all have to stand for peace. Without peace, we could not attract foreign investors to our country and we would not be able to export our products abroad.
In the current global context, if a country does not sell its products in the international market and enter the global value chain, it would be out of the global economic arena. Hence, peace and stability are critically important and every Ethiopian has to stand for peace. We have to have discussions on issues that that are sources of disagreement. If there are questions on the progress of democracy, good governance and supremacy of the law, we have to resolve them or correct the shortcomings through negotiations and public discussions.
As long as we keep and sustain the democratization process and development, Ethiopia at least would be able to have an economy with industry as its structural basis and an export led industry. With this, I hope that our youth would be one of those who would be proud of their country and would be willing to work hard and change their lives in their country.
What message do you have for Ethiopians regarding May 28.
All Ethiopians have to get hand to hand to protect the fruits of May 28, particularly the democratization process and the economic development initiatives. We have to protect these fruits as the apple of our eyes.
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