LONDON, United Kingdom, February 14, 2019/ — Prime Minister Abiy led an Ethiopian delegation on a three-nation European Tour, in Italy where they met the President and the Pope, Davos where the Prime Minister addressed global leaders at the World Economic Forum and Brussels for meetings with the European Union Commission.
Abiy’s last European tour saw him visit France and Germany in November 2018.
PM Abiy first met his Italian counterpart, Giuseppe Conte in Rome, reciprocating the former’s visit to Ethiopia in late 2018.
While in Rome, the delegation also held bilateral meetings with development partners and investors.
Abiy had earlier met with the Italian President Sergio Mattarella at the Quirinal Palace and discussed historical relations and bilateral cooperation in key areas.
Italy to fund Ethiopia–Eritrea railway
In Rome, an agreement was made for Italy to fund the first phase of a feasibility study for a 736km railway line between Addis Ababa and the Red Sea port of Massawa in Eritrea.
PM Abiy said: “We are excited and accept with great honour Italy’s support for our plan to link Addis Ababa with Massawa via railway.”
The route, which would pass through Awash then Mekelle before connecting to the Red Sea, would be one of the dividends from the historic peace deal signed between Ethiopia and Eritrea in July 2018.
The peace agreement has also led to plans to reconstruct two roads between the countries, and the development of two ports in Eritrea.
Pope Francis receives Ethiopian PM
On 21st January, Pope Francis met with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, at a private audience in the Vatican.
According to a communique from the Holy See Press Office, the “cordial talks” emphasized “important initiatives underway for the promotion of national reconciliation, and for the integral development of Ethiopia”. The talks also focused on the “role of Christianity in the history of the Ethiopian people” – Ethiopia was one of the first lands to adopt Christianity, and the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church remains the largest religious body in the country by population.
During the discussions, the situation in Eastern Africa was addressed, including the importance of the “peaceful resolution of conflicts and the socio-economic development of Africa” in particular, Ethiopia’s “commitment to the stabilization of the Horn of Africa,” and the recent resumption of diplomatic relations with Eritrea.
Earlier this month, in his address to diplomats accredited to the Holy See, Pope Francis took special note of the “historic agreement” between the two countries, which he described as one of the significant signs of peace in the past year.
At the conclusion of their encounter, the two leaders made a traditional exchange of gifts, with the Prime Minister offering a present of traditional Ethiopian fabrics, along with a painting of the Risen Christ.
The Holy Father, for his part, presented Prime Minister Abiy with a medallion with an image of an ear of corn and a bunch of grapes in the desert – a reference, the Pope explained, to the prophecy of Isaiah, that the desert would one day become a garden. Pope Francis also gave the prime minister a copy of the text of the Message for the World Day of Peace, and bound copies of four other Pontifical Documents: Evangelii gaudium, Laudato sí, Gaudete et exultate, and Amoris laetitia.
Following the Audience with the Holy Father, Prime Minister Abiy met with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and Msgr Antoine Camilleri, Under-Secretary for Relations with States.
Prime Minister highlights virtues of ‘Medemer’ philosophy in Davos
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed addressed world leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos on 23rd January, where he highlighted Ethiopia’s rapid economic transformation and reform process.
In “A Conversation with Abiy Ahmed” hosted by Børge Brende, President of the World Economic Forum, PM Abiy said: “Ethiopia today is among the fastest growing economies in the world, consistently averaging growth of over 9%. Poverty has been halved and education enrolment has markedly increased.”
“Ethiopia’s GDP has multiplied 10-fold in 25 years.”
Investment in infrastructure has contributed a lot to growth and attracted Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), making Ethiopia one of the leading FDI destinations in Africa.
“Our challenges, however, remain formidable.”
The challenge, he explained, is to sustain that level of growth, especially to find jobs for a rapidly expanding young population.
“In order to reinforce our upward trajectory and achieve even more rapid and sustainable growth, Ethiopia has embarked on a comprehensive reform process since last April,” he said.
The reform is deeply rooted in the philosophy of “medemer” an Amharic word for coming together or synergy. It is people-centred and has three interdependent pillars:
• A vibrant democracy
• Economic Vitality
• Regional Integration and openness to the world
Greater freedom of the press, the release of political prisoners, the empowerment of women and the facilitation of the next generation of private-public partnerships are all ways of meeting those goals.
PM Abiy also pledged to make it easier for investors to do business in Ethiopia and called on investors to take advantage of the huge investment and business potential available in the country.
The PM said his government is opening up the economy to international investors in telecoms, logistics, energy, aviation, railways and industrial parks, adding that his government would continue to foster Public-Private Partnerships.
“Ethiopians are born runners, marathon runners. Take that as a signal of our intentions and our level of stamina,” he said, in reference to the task ahead.
The theme of this year’s Forum was “Globalization 4.0: Shaping a New Architecture in the Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”
Ethiopia to host World Economic Forum on Africa in 2020
While in Davos, Prime Minister Abiy held a bilateral meeting with Professor Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, where they discussed the importance of a collaborative approach among business, government, the private sector and civil societies in addressing key global challenges.
Both parties agreed that Ethiopia would host the World Economic Forum on Africa in 2020.
On the sidelines of the World Economic Forum, the Prime Minister also held discussions with several business leaders including Jack Ma, Chair of the Alibaba Group, who agreed to consider potential investments in a tech city in Ethiopia that will improve the daily lives of the people in the region.
The PM also met Bill Gates, co-Chairman of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and thanked him for the work the Foundation is doing in Ethiopia in health, agriculture and capacity-building.
They further agreed to enhance cooperation in the agriculture, irrigation and technology sectors.
EU and Ethiopia step up their partnership and cooperation
In his debut visit to Brussels, the seat of the European Union, Prime Minister Abiy met with European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, High Representative/Vice-President, Federica Mogherini, Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, as well as Council President, Donald Tusk, to discuss EU support for Ethiopia’s reform process.
The visit culminated with the agreement of an additional €130 million in funds to support job creation.
Speaking on the occasion, President Juncker said: “The partnership between Ethiopia and the EU is particularly strong and the meeting with Prime Minister Abiy, today, allowed us to exchange [views] on how to further deepen it. The EU supports the ambitious reform agenda in Ethiopia and is committed to stepping up its support to the country”.
Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica and Ethiopian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Workneh Gebeyehu signed three new programmes to promote sustainable economic growth and job creation in the country for a total amount of €130 million.
Commissioner Mimica said: “Today’s cooperation package worth €130 million is proof of our support to Ethiopia’s economic development and job creation, which will help build new opportunities for its people. With these additional funds, we are supporting better access to sustainable energy and the development of the agro-industrial sector in the country”.
The three new programmes are part of the ‘Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs’, which aims to deepen the economic and trade relations between the two continents to sustain growth. They will support job creation (€50 million), sustainable energy (€35 million) and the establishment of agro-industrial parks in Ethiopia (€45 million).
Ethiopia is a key partner to the EU. In 2016 the EU and Ethiopia signed a “strategic engagement”, which implies close cooperation in areas ranging from regional peace and security, to trade and investment, including migration and forced displacement. Prime Minister Abiy receives further support for reforms in latest whistle-stop tour of Europe (3)Prime Minister Abiy receives further support for reforms in latest whistle-stop tour of Europe (4)Prime Minister Abiy receives further support for reforms in latest whistle-stop tour of Europe (1) APO Group