Speech by H.E. Mr Demeke Mekonnen at the UK-Africa Investment Summit
H.E. Mr Demeke Mekonnen Hassen
Deputy Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
UK-Africa Investment Summit
20th January 2020
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Heads of State and Government,
Distinguished Guests and
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I wish to express my deep appreciation and thanks to the Government of the United Kingdom for organising the UK-Africa Investment Summit and for inviting Ethiopia to this important and timely gathering.
The UK and Africa share a relationship based on mutual economic, social, political and cultural bonds.
We are confident that this special relationship will grow further as a result of our deliberations and engagements today. We highly value the initiative taken by the UK government to accelerate investment flows between Africa and the UK. We are confident that this will create lasting partnerships and further opportunities for growth.
We know the global economy has been on a downward slide in recent years with negative implications for global commodity prices and trade flows. Understandably, this trend has created major concerns especially among African countries that depend on commodity exports for income and foreign exchange earnings.
Fortunately, there are positive signs that the tide may be turning. This is good news for African countries that are aspiring to achieve high-level growth and economic prosperity through export-led industrialisation.
In the last two decades, African countries have transitioned away from the negative growth pattern that dominated the 1970s and 1980s towards a remarkable performance that has been labeled by some observers as the “African miracle”.
Ethiopia is one such example of that miracle.
It has demonstrated that it is possible to achieve a growth rate much higher than the global average and sustain it at double-digit levels for more than a decade. Indeed, Africa is home to seven of the world’s ten fastest-growing economies.
In reality, these achievements are the results of hard work and our determination to lift Africa out of poverty and dependence on external aid. We are learning from our own experiences that it is only through discipline and by following the right policies and strategies that we can sustain the recent growth “miracle”.
However, the share of intra-African exports as a percentage of total African exports is the lowest of any other region in the world.
It is partly to remedy the weak intra-Africa trade that we established the African Continental Free Trade Area – the largest regional trading block in the world. The ultimate goal is to establish a single continental market for goods and services, covering over 50 countries, with a combined GDP of over $2.3 trillion and a population of 1.2 billion. There are great expectations from this trade agreement. Not only will it enhance intra-Africa trade, but it will create employment, catalysing investment and fostering high-level growth across the continent and beyond.
However, while achieving high-level growth is important and necessary for generating wealth, it is not sufficient if it does not create decent and well-paying jobs, enabling countries to achieve ‘shared prosperity’. Achieving shared prosperity goes beyond registering high-level growth and increasing national income. It requires addressing the negative implications of inequality, social injustice, unemployment, and deprivation.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Since 2018, Ethiopia has initiated a series of political, economic and social reforms aimed at tackling head-on some of these challenges.
On the political front, we have focused on creating a strong democratic order based on the rule of law, respect for fundamental human rights and the basic liberties of our citizens.
Creating peace in our region is a central feature of the efforts to build a strong democratic order not only at home but also at the sub-regional level. Our tireless efforts are bearing fruit, as demonstrated by the peace accord signed between Ethiopia and Eritrea.
For the first time in many years, families separated by a tragic war have been reunited and are beginning to live normal lives again. These are historic developments and exemplary for many other countries.
On the economic front, our priorities are to strengthen the role of the private sector in the economy, achieve sustained economic growth through export-led industrialisation and make Ethiopia an African beacon of prosperity by 2030.
We have also revised our investment laws to ensure that the domestic market is business-friendly and opened up key sectors that were previously closed to foreign investment. These include; the telecommunications sector, aviation, energy, logistics, financing leasing and others. We want to create an attractive investment environment, empower the private sector, build our production capacity and create dynamic and competitive Ethiopian enterprises.
And we want UK businesses to be among the first to take advantage of these changes.
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Africa is the youngest continent. Close to 60% of our population is under the age of 25. In a few decades, Africa will have the largest workforce. This trend will create an unprecedented opportunity for the continent.
Yet, we also have to overcome significant challenges. Key in this regard is the gap between the number of young people seeking work and the limited job opportunities. As a government, it is our role to ensure that the conditions are in place for strong private sector job growth.
So, I ask you to walk with us in this new journey – in encouraging your businesses to invest in Africa, in facilitating our integration into the global economy and in sharing with us the lessons from your own experiences.
I invite you to join hands with the people of Ethiopia and Africa.
To all those assembled here, thank you for your attention.
And to the United Kingdom, and the honourable Minister, Alok Sharma, thank you for your continued support in this journey.
I thank you very much!
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