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Saudi investors are said to be concerned over the recent deportation of Ethiopian workers and the failure of the Saudi’s Agricultural Development Fund (ADF) to back up Saudi investments in Ethiopia, according to news outlets in Saudi Arabia.
Around 400 Saudis have been primarily investing in Agriculture after a 2008 Agricultural initiative that came from King Abdulah. Since that time Saudi Arabian Nationals have poured USD 3.5 billion into the country.
Al-Hayat, a Saudi media outlet reported that investors in Ethiopia have been waiting for support from the ADF for a long time.
“We are still waiting for the help that was supposed to be provided from this program but two weeks ago we discovered that even large agricultural companies would have a hard time meeting the requirements of this Agricultural initiative, let alone us smaller investors,” Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al Shahri, Head of the Saudi Agriculture Investors Association in Ethiopia said.
Al-Hayat’s report said that investors became discouraged after a meeting held in Riyadh with representatives of the ADF and themselves.
“Unfortunately, the ADF informed us of their impossible conditions, which they made without consulting any of the investors. This violates the foundations of the initiative, leading to its failure,” he said.
The purpose of the ADF was to provide financial and technical assistance to investors. However, according to Shahri, they have not seen tangible benefits from the program.
The head of the 60 member association says many companies have liquidated their assets and sold their farms.
“A number of Saudi investors say they are going to sell off their investments because they waited more than five years without receiving any support or achieving the terms of King Abdullah’s Initiative for Agricultural Investment Abroad,” he said.
The recent crackdown and deportation of Ethiopian migrant workers has increased their concern, according to Shahri.
“Many investors are opting to stay in Saudi Arabia until the dust settles in Ethiopia, even though it is the harvest season,” he added.
He says that investors are concerned that anger about what has happened in Saudi Arabia may affect them. He feels people should admit mistakes were made on both sides and he hopes that if people are treated fairly in the future that things will continue positively, but for now Saudi farmers are concerned and feel a sense of apprehension.
He said that investors are not facing particular problems since the Ethiopian government is very keen to protect Saudi investors and their investments.
“We are more concerned about the situation in Saudi Arabia and so far we haven’t heard anything from the Ethiopian government about our farms here,” he said.
Capital’s sources, at the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Addis Ababa, who requested anonymity as they are not authorized to comment, said no Saudi Arabian investor has come to the embassy so far. They added that no one has asked to phase out or liquidate their business.
“I don’t think that is true and in fact we expect other investors to come to Ethiopia after Christmas,” they said.
Dina Mufti (Amb.), Spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), declined to comment on the issue saying it is mere suspicion.
“Fear is natural and people can become nervous for all sorts of reasons, so I cannot comment on something that doesn’t exist,” he said.