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The Ethiopian Chamber of Commerce and Sectoral Associations (ECCSA) works in areas of Trade and Investment promotion, policy Advocacy and members’ Capacity building, bringing the Ethiopian businesses with the rest of the world in collaboration with key stake holders. Capital’s Tesfaye Getnet talked to Endalkachew Sime, Deputy Secretary General-Operation of ECCSA about the association’s plan for the future and what it has been doing so far. Excerpts;

Capital: What was the major thing the Chamber did in GTP I, especially in calling foreign business delegations?
Endalkachew Sime
: The Ethiopian Chamber of Commerce and Sectoral Associations (ECCSA) had its own five-year Strategic Plan during the implementation of the first Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP I). The primary target of ECCSA’s first five-year strategic plan, which ended last year, was to have a vibrant private sector that can be ranked at a continental level. The private sector in Ethiopia has only existed for a couple of decades, which makes it one of the youngest among African economies.
Therefore, the task of creating vibrancy was challenging. When we see the result now, it is so encouraging, though not perfect. The National Chamber has three basic assignments from its establishing Proclamation no. 341/95. These assignments are the Promotion of Trade and Investment, Policy Advocacy and Capacity Building of the Ethiopian Private Sector. When we see the GTP I performance of ECCSA, they are in line with its basic assignments – interims of trade and investment promotion, for example, ECCSA has organized five annual high level trade fairs called Ethio Chamber International Trade Fairs. The motto of these events was Buy Ethiopian, which entirely promotes the domestic industrialization process trough promotion of the products and services of the manufacturing industry.
Organizing different events to bring international and local businesses together is the other task. If we see the Business to Business meetings (B2B) organized by ECCSA in collaboration with other stake holders, we organized 13 B2Bs in the year 2005 (EC) bringing some 191 foreign participants to meet 420 Ethiopian business people. In the year 2006 (EC), we organized 26 similar events attracting 391 foreign business people to meet some 1115 local business practitioners. These figures have shown on average a 50% increase in the years 2007 and 2008 (EC). The new and fast growing trend in this activity is organizing B2Bs in other countries. Our companies are showing a growing interest of traveling to other countries for exposure and business deals.
In the areas of Policy Advocacy, in the GTP I period, we established the Ethiopian Public Private Consultative Forum (EPPCF) Secretariat by signing an MoU with the Government, we organized more than 15 Consultation Forums with relevant government bodies tabling some 100 consultation agendas as core problems of the business community through a professionally researched recommendations. The Ethiopian Public Private Consultative Forum (EPPCF) is awarded a Public Private Dialogue at the 8th Global PPD Conference held in Copenhagen, Denmark. In a ceremony held at the Danish Federation of Industries on March 12, 2015, the global community bestowed Ethiopia’s Dialogue platform the Ethiopian Public Private Consulate Forum a “Long Standing Achievement” award for which 54 countries around the world have competed. The Howard recognized the Chamber’s many years of hard work to build a Public Private Dialogue platform that delivers measurable results. In the areas of capacity building of the business community, ECCSA has established a Chamber Academy during GTP I period that gives continuous and in-depth training on selected issues.
Inspired by the hopeful results recorded on the implementation of our first five-years trategic plan, ECCSA has launched its second strategic plan, in line with the implementation period of the national plan, GTP II.
Capital: Do business-to-business meetings held thus far have tangible results?
We have been holding match making events in collaboration with different stakeholders like the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and our Embassies aboard, foreign Embassies in Addis Ababa, investment commissions, Ministry of Industry, Ministry of Trade and others. Though we are still in a process of measuring the impacts of each B2B, these events we are organizing at home and aboard are bearing some tangible fruits.
To mention one, global brands have started conducting business with Ethiopia. Kanoria Denim Factory has opened its first East African Factory in Ethiopia; H&M established its office in Addis Ababa. Tesco PLC and the British arm of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. are also buying clothing from Ethiopian manufacturing plants; Otto Kessler, a German company specializing in the production of top quality leather gloves has established a leather processing plant in Gondar; the Japanese manufacturer Hiroki Co. Ltd is setting up a manufacturing operation in Ethiopia; one of the largest shoe exporters in China – Huajian – also set up a factory in Ethiopia. Esmeralda Farms bought close to 150 hectares and started growing flowers in Ethiopia, the third largest wine producer in the world and the second largest beer and soft drinks business in Africa, Castel Group committed to establishing Castel Winery in Ethiopia and Africa; JUICE BV of the Netherlands has established a Joint Venture in Ethiopia.
Capital: Due to the low level of the business community’s participation in the chamber, some characterize the chamber as a toothless dog – what do say about that?
Yes, membership number matters in order to have a bold voice to be heard. Official figures estimate that we have more than1.2 million businesses in Ethiopia, but less than 300,000 are members of the Ethiopian Chamber System. Having the merits and advantages of a voluntary membership in the chamber system, the existing proclamation has limitations in creating a unified voice of the Ethiopian private sector. ECCSA is finalizing its proposal to change the view of the private sector as disorganized; the proposal is to be tabled soon for the government.
Capital: There are rumors of quarreling among higher-ranking officials in the chamber, what is the cause for conflict within the chamber and what has been done to resolve it?
The Chamber system is very close to the media. That is why every detail is amplified. Otherwise, I don’t think there is a special dynamic going on in the Chamber to be considered out of the normal for business institutions.
Capital: What are the big challenges the Chamber has encountered?
Absence of a clear Private Sector Development Strategy (PSDS); lack of an efficient legal framework that substitutes the current weak proclamation (341/95) for an efficient associative format of the private sector, and having a weak manufacturing sector in the economy are three major challenging for ECCSA.
Capital: The government has already begun implementing GTP II, did you participate in formulating the plan? And, what is the Chamber planning to do in GTP II?
We had a countrywide business community consultation to propose the interests of the business community to be part of GTP II, well ahead of time. We submitted that proposal for the government during the preparation period, and we can say that our proposal was significantly considered with the exception of a few points like the issue of Public Private Partnerships (PPP), Chamber Reform and a few other points.