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Sunday, June 12, 2022

A letter from GUDAYACHN to Addis Fortune Newspaper's June 4, 2022 article under the title ''Ethiopia sleeps at the Wheel in the Race for the Regional Integration''


By Getachew Bekele Damtew
Gudayachn Editor.

Dear Fortune News Paper, I read an article in your paper under the title ''Ethiopia sleeps at the Wheel in the Race for the Regional Integration'' dated June 4,2022. The article mentioned the African Development Bank’s (AfDB) most recent annual conference in Accra, Ghana. The fourth paragraph of the article stated ''A continental free trade area that brings down tariffs and duties could help countries leverage the strengths of their respective countries. Africa has the least intracontinental trade globally, with only 14.4pc of collective exports going to regional neighbors''. It is quite true that having free trade area and bringing tariffs and duties help African countries leverage. However, regarding Ethiopia, there are key issues that most Development Studies analysts or Economists are missing or do not take into consideration.

In relation to Ethiopia's integration with the Regional market of Africa, I think, there are three key points we should not forget.

One, Ethiopia is one of the ancient lands in the world that can not enter simply with any contemporary market. This is the land that has its own historical background and regional relationship. Therefore, it is important to understand the historical background of the country. This is a land that has never been colonized and her Economic structure is made by her own citizens since the end of the second world war but with great foreign influence. This may need more explanation. But for the time being, this is not the right platform to write more. 

Two, most of the Ethiopian business organizations are owned by her own citizens and shared partially by foreigners. Here I am not saying that there are not fully owned foreign companies in Ethiopia. However, compared to Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania, Ethiopian Economy is more incorporated by the State or citizens. This means these nationally incorporated companies need to cross the borders and start investing within the region's countries.

Three, Ethiopia's Economy was almost fully under a state-led Economy til 1991. Even after 1991, an ethnocentric ideology of the brutal TPLF economic policy created more crises. The ethnocentric policy of TPLF has destabilized not only the Economic sector but the political and even the Education system which is the key producer of skilled manpower to the Economy. For the last four years, the current Government led by PM Abiy Ahmed (Ph.D.) is showing tremendous efforts to adjust the wrong policies of the former regime in all sectors.

Here, I fill so dares to comment on your article that your conclusion is not inclusive of all directions and it is just one-sided, without analyzing the real situations on the ground. The Ethiopian Economy is a giant Economy if we use the real multidimensional measurement  (i.e. if we are not putting every measurement in terms of the Euro or US dollar monetary value only). This is an economy with over 115 million people market and over 2.5 million diasporas all over the world active contribution both in skilled human capital and the Financial one.

When we back to the Regional Economic Integration issue of Africa, the current African Economy integration can not be seen without the direct or indirect role of the Multi-National Corporations (MNC) involvement, particularly in the case of Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. Because as I mentioned above the Foreign business involvement in these three East African countries' economies is more influential compared to Ethiopia. Therefore, economic integration is easy in other East African Countries. Because most MNC has branches in all countries. Therefore they are not only pushing for economic integration but also for shared wealth and investment. 

When we come to Ethiopia, the situation is a bit different. There is no single foreign Financial Institution in Ethiopia at this very time. All banking operations in the country, both the Government and private banks are owned by domestically incorporated Banks and they are operating their business soundly. In fact, the Ethiopian current Government said foreign banks will get permission to run their Banking business in the Ethiopian Financial market. The Telecom business in Ethiopia is now opening to foreign investors. 

Economic integration means for MNCs which have a long hand in the African Economy means to expand their market share in African Market and link each other by crossing the border under the name of different arrangments. However, when we come to Ethiopia's case, Economic integration means the real African incorporated companies link each other through sound regional trade laws and regulations. 

Now, it is better to conclude my comment with the following expressive words. The western world should understand the historical, cultural, and even historical resilient nature of the Ethiopian people in all aspects and must come only in a soft way in relation to any policy ideas. Once Ethiopians, believe in some sort of policy, that does not clash with the above-mentioned three values, they do not have a problem implementing it. However, if there is policy imposition by force, they will never accept it. Regional Economic Integration with the Horn of Africa will come today or tomorrow. However, it will be successful and brings benefits for all stakeholders including the western MNCs, if and only if it goes smoothly without any foreign policy imposition and provides full respect to the unique historical, cultural, and Economic background of Ethiopia. It is a big failure to put all African countries' market situations within one bag. 

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