The first EU-Ethiopia Business Forum was successfully held in Brussels

The EU-Ethiopia Business Forum held in Brussels this week had been long in the making. While an EU Business Forum in Ethiopia was established in 2012, it was the first time such an event was organized in Brussels. Its main objective was to stimulate European private sector investment in Ethiopia by providing practical information about doing business in the country.

The Forum took place at a time where Ethiopia’s economic opportunities are attracting considerable interest in the European Union, as proven by the wide and diverse audience that attended the two-day event. During this high-level business forum, investors and businesspeople interested in doing business in Ethiopia learned practical information and were able to interact with top officials from the Ethiopian Investment Commission and other high-ranking officials from Ethiopia.

They also had the occasion to share the experiences of representatives of some of the largest European companies already active in Ethiopia during the panel sessions. Overall, around 200 participants (business companies from all over Europe and Ethiopia, members of the public and private sectors, journalists and EU and Ethiopian officials included) attended the Business Forum.

State Minister for Foreign affairs Dr. Markos Tekle noted that the government was working on new measures to improve doing business in Ethiopia. PM Abiy has set out a steering committee that solely works towards achieving successful results.

Head of the Ethiopian Investment Commission Abebe Abebayehu pointed out that Ethiopia government and agencies would be there every step of the way to support all investors & solve problems should they arise. He also noted that what we have seen in Ethiopia in the past year since Abiy Ahmed has taken over, is a real revolution, since so much has improved.

Mr. Dougie Brew, Corporate Affairs and Sustainable Business Director Africa of Unilever, highlighted the incredible market potential of Ethiopia, especially for local production, as the middle class is growing and consumers need more than just consumer goods. He also said that his industry had the potential to generate 100 indirect jobs for every direct job created.

Mr. Thomas Schaefer, Chairman and Managing Director of Volkswagen Group South Africa, for his part, said that it is the political will and the vision of the government that attracted Volkswagen to Ethiopia. He also encouraged investors to think out of the box. For instance, instead of paying significant amounts for imported oil, they could use Ethiopia’s national gas reserves, which would cut CO2 emissions by 50%.

The Second day of the EU-Ethiopia Business Forum was dedicated to a morning-long networking session. Participants who had registered the previous day were able to discuss in detail potential partnership projects with other interested parties. Participants expressed their satisfaction about the information provided and contacts made during these two days and hoped that such forums would become regular events in the coming years.