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A French delegation comprised of major business firms have paid a two day visit in Ethiopia this past week showing interest in involving in the transport and power sector.

The delegation met with Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn on Tuesday December 18 and discussed at length Ethiopia’s development policies and strategies. “The visit will help us strengthen our understanding of the business trend in Ethiopia and improve our insight about the future of Ethiopia,” Dominique Lafont, president and CEO of Bollore Africa Logistics, president of the French Business Council for Eastern Africa and head of the delegation told Capital. Noting that it would also put the French companies in a good position to see new opportunities and development in the country, Mr. Lafont further said “It is the right time to be involved in Ethiopia’s development, and French companies are convinced of Ethiopia’s economic potential and investment opportunities.” “France ranks among the top European investors in Ethiopia and successful partnerships have recently been set up including building windmill farms and dams, developing electricity networks, providing technical and management expertise in telecommunications, developing water supply and sanitation facilities,” said Mr. Lafont. The discussion was also very extensive with other enterprises in the country. “In the field of railway the French companies have very good experience,” the delegation leader said. The two-day-long visit foresaw several meetings with ministers, managers of state owned enterprises including Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCo), Ethiopian Railway Corporation (ERC), Ethiopian Airlines, Metal and Engineering Corporation (MetEC), as well as with Ethiopian, French and foreign investors, including the Addis Ababa Chamber of Commerce and Sectoral Associations and the European Union Business Forum. Some of the companies are already involved on governmental institutions and their own businesses in Ethiopia. According to the delegation leader the companies are interested to be part of the country’s development directly as well as through governmental projects. The delegation also discussed with the Minister of Transport Deriba Kuma about several business related issues with transportation and railway projects. French companies on their part voiced their interest to involve on the operation of the new railway business and their desire to invest in it. The minister commented that the government is looking into outsourcing the operation on management contract base. The minister also said that the railway line that crosses Ethiopia all the way to Djibouti needs to be handled by a single operator. “The two countries are now under discussion as to how to handle the operation of the line when the service resumes,” he responded to the business delegation’s query. The visit is led by MEDEF International (French Business Confederation), with the support of Ethiopian authorities, the French Embassy in Ethiopia and the Ethiopian Embassy in France. In 2005 and 2009 MEDEF International organized two visits to Ethiopia. More recently, the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi had met with French business leaders in Paris in May 2011. Fifteen companies took part in the delegation visit: Infrastructure, transportation and logistics, energy, urban development, engineering, high technology, machinery and equipment, services to government and international trade, insurance, law firm, along with other important sectors are among the main domains of activity represented in this delegation.