Even though trade and economic ties between India and Ethiopia (a key African country) are flourishing, V. Muraleedharan, Minister of State for External Affairs, believes there is still a lot of room to broaden and diversify trade between the two countries.
"I encourage Indian businesspeople to consider developing high-quality educational institutions in Ethiopia, both professional and non-technical," Muraleedharan said at an India-Ethiopia Business Forum hosted by The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM).
The event was held in honour of Demeke Mekonnen, Ethiopia's Deputy Prime Minister (PM) and Minister of Foreign Affairs. This was ASSOCHAM's first physical high-level contact since the occurrence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the MoS, Ethiopia's economy, the second-most populated African region, has been growing at a double-digit pace for over 15 years, and its highly educated, professional population, as well as its strong economic policies, make it an appealing investment destination for Indian entrepreneurs.
The Minister emphasized the expansion of economic cooperation between India and Ethiopia, noting that amid the global pandemic of Covid-19, Indian businessmen continued to pursue investment opportunities in the African region. "We have had 35 new Indian investments in Ethiopia in the last year."
The Minister also praised the Ethiopian government's efforts to create a favorable atmosphere for foreign investment, especially in facilitating Indian companies' investments and operations in Ethiopia.
There are currently over 607 Indian companies in Ethiopia, with a licensed investment of more than $5 billion and about 75,000 Ethiopian nationals employed. Approximately 61% of Indian investments are in the manufacturing industry, with agriculture coming in second (14 per cent).
Ethiopia is one of the biggest beneficiaries of India's concessional loans or lines of credit in Africa. "I am pleased that our development relationship includes sectors such as rural electrification and the sugar industry, as well as six lines of credit totaling $705 million extended to Ethiopia," said MoS.
According to Ethiopia's deputy prime minister, while bilateral trade relations between India and Ethiopia have reached $1.23 billion, and while Indian exportable goods to Ethiopia have seen exponential growth over the years, Ethiopia's export to India remains as poor as before.
The Ethiopian deputy prime minister told Indian companies about his government's ten-year economic development plan, which he described as "Ethiopia: An African Beacon of Prosperity."
Mr Mekonnen said, "We've also identified new growth frontiers, such as the digital economy, tourism, science and technology, human capital production, and increased agricultural and industrial productivity."
He also promised prospective Indian investors that his government would help them.