In an interview with Diplomatist’s Business Editor Kanchi Batra, H.E. Dr. Tizita Mulugeta, Ambassador of Ethiopia to India shares her vision on furthering the bilateral cooperation between the two countries.
Q. Ethiopia’s relations with India have been traditionally close and friendly. In your representation as the new Ambassador of Ethiopia to India, what vision you hold and cooperation you seek to further strengthen these ties?
Ethiopia’s relations with India date back several centuries. Ethiopia’s relationship with India is directed by the historicity of their interactions – the century-old trade partnerships and socio-cultural linkages. We want to elevate our ties to the next level. We want to elevate our bilateral partnership; we can come to an agreement that we can elevate it to the level of strategic partnership. We want to have a dynamic and fruitful dialogue on bilateral and regional levels. The potential is enormous.
Q. Ethiopia is Africa’s oldest independent country and its fastest-growing economy today. Do you see Ethiopia as a gateway for India to the African market?
Ethiopia can be an attractive investment destination for Indian businessmen as we offer advantages like business-friendly policies and good climatic conditions. Ethiopia is the second-most populous nation on the African continent. Moreover, we have Ethiopian Airlines which is Africa’s largest carrier, with more than 70 years’ of successful air transport services. The capital Addis Ababa is one of the world’s largest diplomatic hubs, hosting the seat of the African Union, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, and dozens of foreign embassies. As part of new reforms, Ethiopia also started issuing e-visas to all visitors and introduced visa-on-arrival.
Q. The current dynamics of Ethiopia-India relationship are very positive but the balance of trade is tilted in favour of India. How do you wish to address this imbalance?
The economy of Ethiopia is based on agriculture which accounts for almost 41 percent of GDP and 80 percent of exports. Agriculture is the country’s most promising resource. A potential exists for self-sufficiency in grains and for export development in livestock, grains, vegetables, and fruits. Ethiopia is looking to diversify its export basket. Additionally, Ethiopia continues to work towards improving the ease of doing business in the country.
Q. How important is foreign investment to Ethiopia’s economic growth?
Ethiopia envisions to become a middle-income country and a leading manufacturing hub in Africa by 2025. Foreign investors can invest on their own or in partnership with domestic investors in areas open for FDI. Ethiopia’s geographic location and its active membership in regional and bilateral trade agreements make it a desirable investment destination. The Ethiopian Investment Commission (EIC) has restructured itself recently with a view to becoming more effective at attracting FDI and improving the services provided to investors.
Q. Cooperation between Ethiopia and India spans a range of areas like agriculture, infrastructure, technology, healthcare, education, tourism etc. Are you satisfied with the way things are taking shape? What more, according to you, needs to be done?
There is cooperation in different sectors. Economic ties between Ethiopia and India have grown over the years. When Ethiopia embarked on an effort of developing its modern education in the early sixties, it was the Indian teacher who came to Ethiopia to teach in schools even in the remotest part of the country. We also have Ethiopian students studying in India. But we want to strengthen the cooperation in the health sector in a more structured and organised manner.
Q. What are the challenges to growing bilateral economic ties?
Challenges are inevitable. I don’t know whether I would call them challenges. Instead, I see them as opportunities. And I believe we both can gain if we strengthen our efforts at all levels. In my time here, I want to take trade and investment relations forward.
Q. Ethiopia enjoys an excellent reputation for its culture and welcomes a large number of tourists all year round. Can you tell us about the current exchange of cultural relations between Ethiopia and India?
India’s connection with Ethiopia is instantly evident in the food. Both Ethiopia and India are countries of diverse people with diverse culture, religion, history way of life etc. It’s an eternal journey, loaded with history, nostalgia and cross-cultural merger.