NAD chats to the Ethiopian ambassador to Ghana, Regassa Kefale Ere, about relations between the two countries, free trade, industrial parks, and the aerospace industry.
New Africa Daily: How would you characterize Ethiopian-Ghanaian relations?
Regassa Kefale: Ethiopia never was a colony of a European power. After Ghana received its independence in 1957, Ghanaian leader Kwame Nkrumah and Ethiopia’s Emperor Haile Selassie worked together on founding the Organization of African Unity, which later became the African Union. The two leaders worked closely together, and this political history is at the core of the relationship.
More recently, we have sought to expand economic ties between the two countries, too, building on the long-standing political ties. Ghanaian investors are interested in various Ethiopian economic sectors, from pharmaceuticals to animal hides. We have had trade events in the two capitals in the past two years to promote trade between our countries.
NAD: How does the signing of the African Continental Free Trade Area change the trade picture for Africa?
RK: Free trade is an important issue. The signing of the agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area is an important turning point, and we are working to develop this opportunity to ensure the prosperity of Ethiopia.
A key part of our strategy is the development of industrial parks and free zones, offering large-scale employment opportunities for the citizens of our country. Indeed, some 60,000 people work at Hawassa Industrial Park (HIP). We have also developed Bole Lemi Industrial Park and other similar parks, which allow us to take advantage of new opportunities under the new trade agreement and other relationships. For too long, Africa’s trade relations have been focused externally, and not on the opportunities of intra-African trade.
The industrial parks will promote development and attract foreign direct investment to Ethiopia
NAD: Tell us more about the strategy behind Ethiopia’s industrial parks.
RK: These industrial parks offer exporters a one-stop approach, including customs, roads, and electricity. It’s not just the infrastructure, however; there are also incentives for companies who relocate to these zones, such as tax holidays. The government is committed to this policy. The industrial parks will promote development and attract foreign direct investment to Ethiopia.
NAD: One of the main economic components in the Ethiopian-Ghanaian relationship is in the aerospace industry. In December 2018, an agreement was announced to have Ethiopian Airlines play a key role in the relaunch of Ghana’s national carrier.
RK: Ethiopian Airlines, which has a strong brand and a solid history, will take a minority stake in the new national air carrier of Ghana. Ethiopian is a widely respected carrier and Africa’s most successful airline. It flies to more than 110 destinations around the world and operates about 1,000 aircraft, including the Airbus A380, the world’s largest passenger airliner. Above all, Ethiopian Airlines stands for unique quality and a high level of service. These were all factors in the Ghanaian decision. It is a win for both countries, as there are daily direct flights between Addis Ababa and Accra.