The seminar focused on issues related to job creation through increased investments, strengthened trade conditions for export capacity, cleaner energy production, enabling environment for private sector development, and the Nordic model for social dialogue and labor rights. These are all focus areas for Norwegian and Swedish development policies.
In 2017, the five Nordic Prime Ministers agreed to launch an initiative called the Nordic Solutions to Global Challenges with the purpose to promote Nordic solutions and innovations that address some of the most pressing global issues and that can help promote sustainability and progress toward the UN Sustainability Goals.
In his opening remark, the State Secretary of Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Jens Frølich Holte highlighted the fact that for many years now, both Norway and Sweden have been development partners for Ethiopia in a number of areas. Climate change, renewable energy, human rights, education, democracy and good governance, civil society, and gender equality are long-standing themes for cooperation. “These will continue to be core areas in our development cooperation with Ethiopia,” he said. “Today, however, private sector development is equally important. Improving the investment climate is key, and we will contribute to this through a range of bilateral and multilateral channels”.
The former State Minister of Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Professor Afework Kassu, in his keynote speech emphasized the economic growth attributes in Ethiopia and also the recent diverse reforms that have widened the political and economic horizons in Ethiopia and called upon Norwegian and Swedish companies and the broader Nordic community to leverage on this opportunity. “It is our strong conviction that the visit of Nordic business delegation would serve as an important opportunity to further boost trade and investment between our countries,” he said.
The business opportunities were presented by the Ethiopian Investment Commission. Renewable energy, agribusiness, textile, leather, and ICT sectors were some of the key sectors presented as areas for greater potential. Even though impressive investments are made by the Ethiopian government especially on infrastructure and others, challenges remain to doing business in Ethiopia. Some mentioned by participants included the foreign currency shortage, unstable power supply, the inefficiency of the service sector including logistics, the immigration procedures, and duty clearance, and the air pollution in Addis Ababa. Most of the Nordic companies established and operating in Ethiopia stated that Ethiopia has a lot of opportunities but to reap the outcome one should come with a long term perspective.
The Nordic values were also presented on the seminar. These included discussions on the Global Deal partnership concept, corporate social responsibility, labor rights, collective bargaining, and social dialogue. The Global Deal is a global partnership, which was launched by the Swedish Prime Minister in partnership with number of organization and private companies with the objective of jointly addressing the challenges in the global labor market and enabling all people to benefit from globalization.
The Nordic finance instruments and funding schemes for business development in Ethiopia were also presented by representative form Norfund, Swedfund, Norad, and Sida.
The seminar also highlighted the Nordic energy solutions in the context of the Ethiopian energy sector. State Secretary Holte emphasized that “Nordic countries and companies have considerable expertise when it comes to renewable energy”. He further added “Denmark has significant wind power expertise, Norway has extensive hydropower expertise, Sweden has world class companies providing innovative electrification products, and Iceland has important geothermal expertise”.
Integrating renewable energy and creating common markets could be useful for Ethiopia, and could provide inspiration for similar cooperation in the region. In light of this and as part of the Nordic Prime Ministers Initiative, Nordic Energy Research gave a two-days course on power production planning and energy trading that very same week 22-23 October 2018.
In addition, the Norwegian African Business Association (NABA) together with the East African Association organized an investment mission to Ethiopia for European companies from 24-26 October. Several Nordic companies coming through this mission as well as those already operating in Ethiopia, participated in the Nordic business seminar. Ethiopian counterpart from the private and public sectors were also present at the seminar. The event created a good platform for Nordic and Ethiopian counterparts to network and expand linkages.