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Grant Thornton Ethiopia provides assurance, tax and advisory services to its clients and is a member firm of Grant Thornton International Ltd (GTL), which is one of the world’s leading independent assurance, tax and advisory firms working with local non-government organisations (NGOs), small and medium-sized private sector enterprises and government agencies. Nigel Ruddock Global Leader of Advisory Services at Grant Thornton was here recently. He talked to Capital about his visit to the country.
Capital: What was the reason for your visit?
Nigel Ruddock: I was here for a November a trip to our firm in Ethiopia and we are very well, business is going quiet nicely. But the real reason for this visit is we have chosen a couple of centers in Bahir Dar for our corporate responsibility project. We thought it was a very worthwhile project so nine of us came back this time for around two weeks, working at the centers, helping build facilities, painting some walls, we have been helping with websites and a whole range of activities.
Capital: What are the organizations?
Ruddock: One of the organizations isthe center. Its main business is daycare for mothers who would struggle otherwise. So they have their children looked after. The center also provides free meals, they help a whole range of, predominantly women and children who are facing difficulties and are seeking refuge. The other one is the New Day Children’s Center which has about 20 children up to age 16 who are essentially orphans. The center houses them, provides education and basically gets structure in their lives so they can get back into proper education and get paying employment. We spent quiet a lot of time there, we helped build some facilities, we bought some bicycles.
We helped the children to put on an event in the evening. We did some teaching of power point, excel, and talked about having a budget for things, a bit about marketing in terms of flyers, how to get people to come along. They put on a short play about their lives had had a traditional dance show and it was really good. The confidence they get from something like that is really good, at first they didn’t think they could do it, it was quiet a challenge, but it worked.
Capital: How is business here for your firm?
Ruddock: There is a lot of activity; the economy is growing as you know. It is not without challenges, but I just noticed around six months ago that construction seems to be more than it was before. Certainly a lot of inbounding investment seems to be building.
You had the bond offering early this week which I think went well, so I think we see an economy that is growing there are a lot of clear opportunities. For example look at Bahir Dar, in terms of tourism, there is obvious and huge potential. So, business is doing well, we are here for the long term and we are looking for to build a team of about 10 people on the advisory side now and we are going to continue to invest.
The team is working well with our other firms, they work closely with Yemen and Oman, also with other parts of Africa as well as Europe. We are pleased to be here, it is growing.
Capital: How is the competition with other with other firms in the country?
Ruddock: It is always a competitive market;something that I have been observing is that there seems to be a lot of people, Ethiopians that have been to the US or Europe that are coming back with contacts, expertise and funding and are setting up small consultancies and they are a big competition. So, there is a whole range of people in the market, but it is what you face all over the world, it is the nature of it, it is a competitive market.
Capital: Your firm was sued by a real estate developer in the UK, tell us about that.
Ruddock: Yes there is a case that has been underway now for a couple of years, we are aggressively defending it, these things take time, working through the system. It is a civil litigation.
Capital: So that is not affecting your business?
Ruddock: No, not at all.
Capital: We would like to know more about specific projects you are doing now.
Ruddock: There is a project that we are working on for SVP Textile which is an Indian Textile firm, they would like to open a cotton spinning mill here in Ethiopia. So essentially we are working on feasibility study.
Another contract we are working on is with ethio telecom, we won a bid with a tender process. So they have selected us to do training for their financial and accounting staff. It is a new office, less than a year since we have been here, but we are working through the tender process, which takes time to hear back results, but we are optimistic.
Half of our business development strategy is through this tender process, that is how a lot of Ethiopian firms operate.
Capital: Do you have any projects on hotels?
Ruddock: No. we do a lot in the sector, mainly out of South Africa, so this is something that we will be building over time. Hotels, leisure and tourism are going to be a big part of development in Ethiopia. We are building contacts with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, hotel owners, a lot of hotels that are publically owned are being privatized, so there is opportunity.