President Barak Obama’s Historic Visit to Ethiopia
Yohannes Gebresellasie (Ph.D) Addis Ababa
July 30, 2015
Diplomatic relations between Ethiopia and the United States of America has lasted long: over a century. Although with interruption during the former military regime: the Derg, diplomatic relation between the two countries has been excellent. Diplomatic relations between the two countries being good however, that diplomatic relation has not been reinforced by the more needed trade, investment and generally by strong economic cooperation. In fact, the economic ties between the two countries has until recently been very minimal.
To some extent, over the last fifteen years with more initiatives by governments, trade, investment and economic transaction between the two nations has been encouraging, expanding and progressing. Although variety of factors account for the increased trade and investment between the two nations, over the last fifteen years, the most important factor underpinning the economic transaction between the two countries has by and large been the Ethiopian economic progress and growth. For the last ten years, the Ethiopian economic growth has been a double digit progress: on average over ten percent and by any standard this growth is simply outstanding. Currently, Ethiopia stands forth in terms of economic growth in the world and that puts Ethiopia at the top of Africa in that regard and that is again exceptional.
As a result of this continuous economic trend, Ethiopia is attracting big and rich governments and international companies including those from the most developed nations alike. This is so because the overall economic climate in Ethiopia has been conducive to trade and investment. Ethiopia possesses large population: second in Africa, its weather condition is almost perfect: thirteen months of sunshine, huge and cheap and skilled labor for investors, big internal market space, peace and stability coupled with many other conducive social, economic, political and environmental benefits attract trade and investment in Ethiopia. Therefore, investors including those from the very developed countries like the United States of America see huge trade and investment opportunities in Ethiopia. They see Ethiopia as the next wave of destination to trade and investment and if Ethiopia’s economic progress continues in that regard, large and rich companies from all over the world will continue to flow to Ethiopia not to miss those opportunities.
The United States of America: the largest economic power house cannot be left out in this game. It will play a very great role taking advantage of the conducive economic environment and will increase trade and investment that benefits both countries and the current visit of the American President, President Obama is an excellent example of this phenomenon. His visit to Ethiopia will definitely reinforce, energize and sustain trade, investment and economic transaction between the two countries; therefore, his visit is truly a gift to Ethiopia. President Obama brought with him American big business delegates that own huge companies with huge capital to discuss business and investment that benefits both nations and that is good for Ethiopia. His visit follows the current decision by his government to increase the period of AGOA that gives chance to few African nations and that includes Ethiopia to export their products to the United States without tax and quota for the next ten years. This will increase Ethiopia’s export to the United States.
Politically stable and economically grown Ethiopia will continue to attract investors all over the world including from the United States and President Obama’s visit to Ethiopia is a catalyst in that regard. Here is what President Obama once said about Ethiopia’s economic future: “When I spoke previously at the African Summit about some of the bright spots and progress that we’re seeing in Africa, I think there’s no better example than what have been happening in Ethiopia… one of the fastest growing economies in the World. We have seen enormous progress in a country that once had great difficulty feeding itself. It’s now not only leading the pack in terms of agricultural production in the region, but will soon be an exporter potentially not just of agriculture, but also power because of the development that’s been taking place there. So Ethiopia has been not only a leader economically in the continent, but also when it comes to security and trying to resolve some of the longstanding conflicts there.”
Ethiopia is a sit of the African Union (AU) and Addis Ababa as the second diplomatic city in the world possess a huge leverage politically, economically and politically across the globe. Further, Ethiopia is the third UN peace keeping mission contributor to the UN peace keeping mission. Our Defense Force is also unique not only because of the activities it deals with here at home but also with those activities that it deals abroad mainly within the countries of our African brothers and sisters as well. Our Defense Force has an impeccable reputation for humanity, neutrality, commitment, heroism both at home and abroad. These unique character of our heroic defense Force is demonstrated time and again in many African countries; Rwanda, Burundi, Ivory coast, Liberia, Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia among others with utmost discipline and unparalleled heroism. Our heroic Defense Force still maintains an excellent reputation on those characters by those respective governments but most importantly by the people of those countries not only as a united Nation’s peace keeping mission but most importantly for caring, for neutrality and for humanity. For that, our Defense Force has been decorated with various international medals and was awarded with high level recognitions and acknowledgments from those countries and from the United Nations for the excellent services rendered to those governments and peoples. This excellent reputation has made our Defense Force arguably the most trusted and admired Defense Force anywhere in the world. This phenomenon was demonstrated recently during the United Nation’s peace keeping mission in The Sudan and in South Sudan. Here, both countries agreed to have the Ethiopian Defense Force as the only peace keeping mission to be deployed within their territory in order to help them settle their political problem in Abyie. Here, it is important to note the historical decision of the UN Security Council where it unanimously authorized the deployment of only Ethiopian Defense Force in Abyie at the request of both the Sudan and South Sudan. Both nations agreed and put full trust and confidence of a neighboring Defense Force entering their country as a neutral body to help settle differences and to keep those conflicting armies calm. This is simply unprecedented and unheard of anywhere else in the world thus far. No other country has done that except our trusted Defense Force. What a unique trust from two opposite factions! Could there be further testimony than this to the impartiality, neutrality and above all to the principled stand of the Ethiopian Defense Force. Also in Somalia, our Defense force has played a pivotal role in fighting terrorism and bringing peace and stability to the people of Somalia who for many years were longing for peace and stability in the country. Here too, the Ethiopian Defense Force is praised both by the United Nations, the government of Somalia and most importantly by the people of Somalia for a job well done. Generally, whereas many African countries including those of our neighbors have consistently been disturbed by terrorists from within and outside their territory, our nation has continued to enjoy peace and stability thanks to the vigilant, hard working and committed Ethiopian Defense Force. Peace and stability cannot be taken for granted. Peace and stability is the base for development and without peace and stability, there cannot be development at all. Our nation has enjoyed a double digit economic growth for years now because there is peace and stability at home.
Thanks to the unwavering determination and persistent hard work of its people and visionary leadership, for the last two decades, today’s Ethiopia has come a long way to become fundamentally and distinctively different from yester-decades Ethiopia. In just two decades of span of time, Ethiopia has managed to successfully lift itself from poor, backward, famine-stricken, war-torn country to be one of the most influential country in Africa and beyond and an economic and diplomatic power house to be reckoned with. Ethiopian is well on its way to become a middle-class country by the year 2025. It has already met all the goals set in the “Millennium Development Goal” (MDG) and is gearing itself to start the new UN’s “Sustainable Development Goals” (SDG) soon. It is currently concluding its previous GTP with much success and it is about to embark on the next ambitious GTP1 development program which is going to be launched soon.
Ethiopia has scored impressive, fast and miraculous socio-economic developments in so short time in addition to its significant successes in ensuring durable peace, security and stability in today’s chaotic World in general and the troubled Horn of Africa region in particular. Ethiopia is achieving very influential status in regional and global politics and diplomacy; in introducing solid, continuous and flourishing democracy to the Country and in radically and positively changing the tarnished image of the Country. In short, Ethiopia has achieved the status of one of the five fastest growing economies in the World with double-digit growth for more than ten years and one of the three biggest economies in Africa and has risen to the status of not only as economic leader of Africa but also as the prime and influential country in regional, continental and global diplomatic and peace-keeping affairs.
Furthermore, Ethiopia is the origin of Mankind where everything began and where the World renowned “Lucy” once lived millions of years ago. It is an ancient and proud African country that is extremely rich in historical, cultural and religious wealth on top of its natural beauty as evidenced among other things, in its nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as the magnificent obelisks of Aksum, the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, the Gondar Castle, the Harar Wall, Simien National Park, Erta Ale, etc. It is also the diplomatic capital of Africa and one of the few diplomatic hubs of the World where the African Union (AU) and the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) are hosted.
It is important mentioning here that the Ethiopia people have proved beyond any shadow of doubt that they not only clearly know their short-term and long-term goals, but they duly know how to reach these goals. The ugly faces of poverty and backwardness have started to become history of the past by the passing of each day and from the significant achievements made so far. The Ethiopian people are now seeing a clear light at the end of the tunnel and a bright and promising future.
It is due to the above facts that Ethiopia has become one of the top and preferred World destinations for political leaders, senior diplomats, business investors and tourists from all corners of the globe. It was precisely these facts that prompted the United Nations to unanimously select Ethiopia and convened last week’s historic and unprecedented conference, “Third International Conference on Finance for Development” that is expected to adopt the new historic document, “ Sustainable Development Goals” this coming September in New York in the aim of significantly reducing World poverty in the coming fifteen years. It was also against these backgrounds that this week’s official state visit of Barak Obama, the President of United States of America, the most powerful nation on Earth, was made to Ethiopia.
The visit was historical and an important milestone in the century-old brotherly relationship of the Ethiopian and American peoples that will definitely be elevated to a higher level. The visit was not one of the few ordinary visits the American President previously made to few African countries with the usual and sole agenda of aids. His visit to Ethiopia was a very serious and strategic visit that dealt on crucial and timely issues of trade, investment and security (in light of the regions current security situation). His visit was a clear testimonial to Ethiopia’s impressive socio-economic developments and durable peace and stability and the new status Ethiopia has gained in the global trade and diplomatic arena.
The President of the United States of America, the most influential person on Earth, has once again clearly and loudly stated to the World (including to Ethiopia’s friends and foes) that Ethiopia has made tremendous achievements and fundamental changes in all aspects of its development namely in healthcare, education, agriculture, infrastructure, energy, service, etc. that has significantly improved the quality of life of tens of millions of its citizens. The President has further stated that Ethiopia has one of the best fighting force in the World, a deserving testimony and tribute to the Ethiopian Defense Forces (EDF). The President has also repeatedly confirmed that there is indeed a functional democracy in Ethiopia that is flourishing with the passing of each day and that the incumbent government is a democratically-elected government.
What a fruitful visit!