This interview appeared in the Embassy's business enclosure to the Capital 16 May. Find more articles from the enclosure here.
Q: You visited Ethiopia earlier this year, and met with Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin in Oslo in early April. What does the increased frequency of high-level Ethio-Norwegian meetings say about the bilateral situation between the two countries?
The visit to Ethiopia in late February was my first. My main focus was international support to the education sector in Ethiopia. I was impressed by the progress in this sector, as well as from what I could so clearly see of the visible economic development.
Together with Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin’s visit to Norway in April, this testifies to the comprehensive and good relations between our two countries. In our discussions in Oslo we discussed ways of further strengthening the relations in different areas, including trade, investments and climate change.
Q: What have been the main topics during the Ethio-Norwegian meetings this year?
Norwegian-Ethiopian relations are comprehensive. Our development cooperation gives priority to the development of clean energy, particularly hydropower. 90 per cent of electricity production in Norway stems from hydropower, so we have experience and expertise that we can share with Ethiopia.
Support to the higher education sector with special emphasis on natural resource management was also discussed, as well as Norwegian support to Ethiopia’s own efforts to fighting female genital mutilation. From the Ethiopian government increased trade and investment is seen as crucial to underpin economic development. We believe Norwegian companies could be more active in Ethiopia and urge stronger involvement of the kind.
Regional issues on the Horn of Africa have also been discussed, particularly the developments in Sudan.
Lastly, Norway is contributing observers to the Ethiopian elections on 23 May, within the EU-led election observation mission.
Q: What are the main points of interest for Norway when it comes to Ethiopia?
Norwegian-Ethiopian relations are longstanding and includes relations at so many levels, from people to people to political contacts at the highest level. Academic cooperation is one example, trade and business another, while in an interlinked globalized world means we have many common political issues to discuss and cooperate on, including peace and security issues. We strive to achieve as comprehensive relations as possible because it will serve common interests and the overall bilateral relations.
Q: Ethiopia has recorded a high economic growth the last year, and expresses its interest for foreign investment in areas like agriculture and hydropower. What incentives does the government of Norway have to promote and facilitate trade and investment regarding countries like Ethiopia?
Norwegian consumers think that working conditions, as well as social and environmental impact of business should be positive for your country. Norwegian government support of commercial activities certainly emphasises these factors.
Let me also underline that the strongest incentives for investments in Africa can only be provided by the African countries themselves: legal, economic and administrative systems must offer stability to investors and trading partners, and link well into the corresponding systems in other countries. Good infrastructure is of course a must, both within the transport sector but not least information and communication technologies. It is very important for Ethiopia to show investors real success stories.
We have a variety of tools. In particular, we can finance feasibility studies that, upon completion, might attract Norwegian investors. Export guarantees can also be given, and the Norwegian Embassy in Addis Ababa is putting a lot of effort into linking Norwegian and Ethiopian businesses together. .
We can also offer some support to the marketing of Ethiopian goods in Norway. Roses in high numbers and Ethiopian honey has penetrated the Norwegian market and the importers have been benefitting from support from Norad; the Norwegian Development Agency. But again, the key factor for success is quality management and reliable supply on the Ethiopian side.
Q: How do you see the linkages between trade, business and development?
Trade and investments are necessary to reduce poverty, but not sufficient. To achieve sustainable development both economic growth, distribution mechanisms as well as investment in health and education is necessary.
Q: Many people in the West have firmly cemented negative perceptions about developing countries. In the case of Ethiopia, does the Norwegian government try to increase awareness about the economic growth and other positive changes in developing countries like Ethiopia?
I would not agree on your statement on negative perceptions in general, and I certainly do not hold that opinion personally. However there are certain perceptions when it comes to doing business that hampers interest in what you call “the West”. We certainly would like to get the right picture through to Norwegian companies on doing business in Ethiopia and I know our Embassy has been active in this respect. I would however also like to underline that it is the main responsibility of the Ethiopian government to facilitate for an enabling business climate and to promote it. Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin accordingly met Norwegian businesses and I understand that he successfully promoted Ethiopia during his April visit to Norway.