The Catalyst’s view

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Overseas Infrastructure Alliance (OIA), a project development and management company, recently inaugurated an eye care center in Addis Ababa. The India Eye Care Center, established through the partnership of OIA and the Ministry of Health was inaugurated in the presence of President Mulatu Teshome. Equipped with a state-of-the-art facility will provide world class eye care while training doctors. Capital’s Eskedar Kifle sat down with Suresh Chaturvedi, OIA Chairman, to talk about the brand new eye care center as well as other projects OIA is currently involved in that range from sugar factories to railways.

Capital: Why did you decide to invest in an eye care center as opposed to other health services?
Suresh Chaturvedi:
I was working with young children, in schools for young girls who came from small villages and the country side and I saw that they experienced difficult situations. Then, when I travelled to different regions, I worked with people who had similar problems as well. When we decided to invest in the center we wanted to bring a product which is high level, high technology and which would bring a difference in Ethiopia. So we thought eye care would be the best thing.
Capital: You stated that the next step of investment would be in kidney transplants, can you give me more details?
Chaturvedi:
There are a lot of diabetic people here which is the main cause of kidney failure. And getting care is very costly and if you go to other countries to get care then there are a lot of legal hassles. Getting good post operational care is also very important after a kidney transplant. So even if people travel to other countries to get the transplant, they suffer when they come here because post care is not very efficient here. So I brought a well reputed doctor from India and he was here to give a lecture to hospitals.
All this happened under the leadership of Dr. Tedros Adhanom who is the current Foreign Minister. There were a lot of legal issues we had to address, I said you need to take time to prepare yourself or kidneys will be sold on the black market. Now they are working on a law to change this and we also have the government working with partners from abroad to acquire newer medications. So once the legal system and everything else is in place, we can begin. One hospital already has the equipment and we want to work with them to give them a boost. But first we want to focus on this current eye care project. Once that is over the kidney transplant will be the next stage.
Capital: Regarding other operations of OIA, for example the Tendaho sugar factory how is the progress coming along?
Chaturvedi:
The first phase of Tendaho Sugar Project should be officially commissioned this year. By 2016 the second phase also should be ready. You know we work as catalysts; nobody was coming for sugar earlier, we brought the money for three sugar factories, now China, Brazil and everybody is coming to invest, so we act like catalysts. We get people to a certain level of competency and then move on.
I act like a catalyst, putting in the initial capital because people are not aware of the rules and regulations and most of them don’t have time to sit down and work out the preliminary details, so I am already here and people love me and trust me and it is easer to put my interests forward.
Capital: What have been some of the challenges you faced with the expansion and rehabilitation of the sugar projects?
Chaturvedi:
I say any country which is developing, regardless if it is India or other places you face different problems, so you shouldn’t complain. No doubt that the press is behind you, asking you questions and sometimes trying to put you down, but that is okay because it is their job. They keep you on your toes and they have a very big place in the society. You have to put your head down and do your best. People think if you encounter a problem then that means you are a person of problems.
There are a lot of problems for example if you bring in medicine in the country you have to have discussions with the customs people for three months or so. It is part of the system; to who are you suppose to complain?
We have to work together in partnership. A lot of problems are there but one of the biggest things is that everybody, especially the leaders are committed, but if there is no commitment from the people below them, success will not come.
Capital: What about Finchaa sugar factory?
Chaturvedi:
Finchaa is already working! Ethiopia is not importing sugar currently. We are waiting for a suitable time for the Prime Minister to officially inaugurate the factory. Everything is running smoothly. There are some issues with regards to conservation of the old plant. You know either you are very rich and spend all the money from the beginning for everything or when you have limited resources you spend the money only on an as needed basis. We are facing some situations but they are not impossible to come out of.
Capital: What about the railway and the transmission project, what is the development on that?
Chaturvedi:
The railway and the transmission projects are also going well. With the transmission, we are now supplying pillars. All of our projects are on schedule and going well. Regarding the railway everything will be ready in three years.