One hundred and sixty kilometres from the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, a French tradition has been exported to east Africa as merlot, syrah and chardonnay grapes grow in vineyards sprawling out across the countryside.
Ethiopia is home to a fledgling yet fast-growing wine industry, which the country hopes can both boost its economy and change its image abroad.
International investors are already moving in. Earlier this year, French beverage giant Castel bottled its first batch of Ethiopian wine.
The company aims to sell half this year’s production of 1.2 million bottles to the domestic market and half to Ethiopians living abroad, though 24,000 bottles have already been snapped up by a Chinese businessman.
The country is ideal grape-growing territory thanks to its sandy soil, short rainy season, cheap land and abundant labour.
Ahmed Abtew, Ethiopia’s Industry Minister, is hoping further foreign investment is on the horizon, which could further boost an economy that’s already growing at up to 11 percent – one of the highest rates in Africa.
“We have a vision Ethiopia will be a hub for labor-intensive light industries in Africa,” he says.
But, in a region that still brings to mind images of famine, poverty and war, there are also hopes wine can change the way outsiders view the country.
“People are proud to see that French companies are bringing the best of the technology and knowledge to Ethiopia, so I really think the image of Ethiopia is changing very much,” says Brigitte Collet, France’s ambassador to Ethiopia.
Date created : 2014-07-28