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Panelists at the second Executive Idea Exchange forum organized by the Management Department of the College of Business and Economics (CBE) said that if the country improves its ‘doing business’ environment, its growth would accelerate even faster.
The panelists also blamed the society for not aiding the fight against corruption and corrupt people who are present impediments to the country’s development and the business environment.
Mulu Solomon, President of the Ethiopian Chamber of Commerce and Sectoral Associations (ECCSA), Tsedeke Yihune, CEO of Flintstone Real Estate and Teshome Beyene, Head of the Public Private Partnership Forum at the ECCSA, presented papers on opportunities which had turned into challenges for Ethiopian businesses.
“There is a great opportunity to make changes in our nation today, as it stands at a critical juncture,” Tsedeke stated.
Listing these opportunities, Mulu also said, among other things, the government’s commitment for the development of the sector, the young and trainable labor, access to huge markets, including local and international, borne by bilateral and multilateral agreements such as the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA)and Everything but Arms (EBAS), the massive investment in infrastructure by the government were all commendable and enabling opportunities. According to Mulu, however, even though the twenty-year old private sector is working hard to bring about the much needed change, it lacks the required experience, finance, knowledge and skills, as well as the technology to utilize these opportunities effectively; therefore, the opportunities become challenges.
She said the government has shown its commitment for the development of the private sector by taking various measures. “It has, for instance, revised the investment policy six times in ten years to bring about workable conditions and solutions for the business community,” she said. But this had bred insecurity and instability among people involved in the private sector, according to her. “When laws, rules and regulations are not stable and change frequently, people find it very difficult to predict and plan for the long term,” she said. “If you don’t know or aren’t sure how long a proclamation would stay in effect, you would become uncertain and it affects business plans” she added.
Mulu also said the professed young and trainable labor force lacks, not only experience, but also have an attitude problem towards everything and anything, which makes training much harder. She also said that markets borne out of bilateral and multilateral agreements are not being used by the business community because of the aforementioned problems. “Let alone other markets, the local market is good enough for us at present if we effectively and efficiently make use of it,” she argued. “But we are not prepared as a result of several impediments.” The mega investments that the government is undertaking are draining the economy, resulting in shortage of and access to foreign currency for the private sector and making it quite hard to invest, Mulu stated.
Furthermore, corruption was also one of the issues raised during the discussion. Mulu said corruption among, some government officials and business people was also a major cause for concern. Mulu blamed the society as a whole for not preventing these corrupt officials and business people. According to her, the society rather relates to corruption and seems resigned to it.
Tsedeke also believes that corruption is one of the hurdles the country faces along its way to development and growth and called upon business executives to battle against it. “I challenge the new business executives of Ethiopia to take it upon themselves to battle corruption, win or die fighting, and pledge not to join them even if you can’t beat them,” he implored.
Ethiopia stands 163rd of 180 countries in the Doing Business Ranking, while in contradiction, it is the third fastest growing country worldwide.
The half-day long forum was held on March 28, 2013 at the Addis Ababa University (AAU) with the theme ‘Opportunities and Challenges for Ethiopian Business at Home and Abroad’. Executives from the private sector, government officials and academia, among others, discussed the opportunities and challenges that the Ethiopian business community is currently facing.