Wednesday 10th February 2016

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Interview
Serbia rekindling ties with Africa PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 09 February 2016 09:02


Ethiopia has been one of the major partners of former Yugoslavia now Serbia for many years. The bilateral relation is traditionally good and friendly, based on common historical heritage and the Orthodox religion. Ethiopia closed its embassy in Belgrade in 1992, and its embassy in Rome is accredited for Serbia.
President Tomislav Nikolić is President of Serbia since 31 May 2012. One of the founders of the Serbian Progressive Party, Nikolić led the party until his election as president. During the 26th African Union Summit, he visited Ethiopia and met with different leaders of the continent to exchange views on economic and diplomatic relations. Capital’s Groum Abate talked to President Tomislav Nikolić about his visit and future expectations. Excerpts:
Capital: What is the main purpose of your visit?
President Tomislav Nikolić:
I can tell you that Serbia is continuing the old Yugoslav policy in Africa. We feel close to Africa and we also care about African friends and states. Serbia was absent from the African scene because the previous administration started the European integration process, and somehow, got the idea that we can to forget our old friends. Today, the situation is different. We are continuing the old policies and we want to bring back to life this old friendship that we have with Africa, and we will also pass this tradition of friendship to our successors. We can help each other a lot. If you look the international scene, you can see that African countries and Serbia are often treated the same way by the international community. They look at us with the same eyes. There are many problems we can solve together. Economic and diplomatic relations between Africa and Serbia is very important. It is also our ambition to bring the relation, to at least, to the zenith it reached  with the former Yugoslavia. But, as I said, unfortunately, we neglected Africa and the first repercussion  was some 25 African states voted in favor of Kosovo to join UNESCO. I think that we missed the opportunity to properly explain to our African friends the phenomenon of Kosovo’s separation, and if we did this in time, maybe our African friends would have not voted in favor of Kosovo or might revoked recognition. Add a comment

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Satellite world the partnership to connect Ethiopia PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 03 February 2016 07:05

SES is one of the world-leading satellite operators with a fleet of more than 50 geostationary satellites. The company provides satellite communications services to broadcasters, content and internet service providers, mobile and fixed network operators and business and government organisations worldwide. In Ethiopia, SES work with the only telecom service provider in the country, Ethio Telecom and the country’s Broadcasting Agency. Ibrahima Guimba Saidou, General Manager of SES Africa answers questions from the media about the company’s operations in Ethiopia.
Question: Tell us about the services you provide.
Ibrahima Guimba Saidou:
We are headquartered in Luxemburg and we own the largest fleets of satellite in the world with more than 50 satellites. We provide service across the whole spectrum of ICT, so ranging from video or broadcasting, we carry the most TV channels in the world we connect more than 350 million households in the world, which translates into more than 1 billion people watching television through our satellites worldwide.
We also provide broadband internet services - we connect people across the world, from remote areas to major cities, depending on the country. We also provide corporate connectivity in general, it can be connecting branches for banks, connecting government offices, schools, and hospitals and so on. We also have more sophisticated services like providing internet in airplanes and on boats; we hope that Ethiopian Airlines will one day join the service.
We also provide services in the area of defense and security, for border control or other services.
We are different in the way we value partnership, because we don’t believe we can do things by ourselves, we need to have partners to be able to provide a solution. And, it is one of our reasons we deiced to be present in Africa four years ago – based in Johannesburg. Since then, we opened two offices, one in Ghana and one office here in Addis Ababa.
The other thing we do is capacity building, because in most developing countries including all the emerging markets, there is sometimes a gap in skills. We have set up a program called Elevate, which helps us train youngsters though satellite technology in countries where we are present and have a partnership.
Question: In Ethiopia, you are providing your services to Ethio telecom and the Broadcasting Agency, what other areas are you interested in getting involved?
Saidou:
In Ethiopia in particular, it is Ethio telecom that provides services, what we do is give Ethio telecom the various elements or the various capabilities that we have so that they can serve customers. We always deliver services according to local rules, it is not our ambition to try and provide services to a particular sector in Ethiopia because the local law does not allow us to do so.
What we do is have regular meetings with Ethio telecom, we explain to them how the technology is evolving and the new capabilities that we have.
That dialogue and conversation is ongoing. For us the aim is to be able to provide services across the whole spectrum through Ethio telecom and the local rules and regulations. As part of GTP II, there is an ambition to connect remote areas in Ethiopia, and we are in discussions with the telecom about some of the ways they can partially achieve that.
One thing that needs to be clear is that a satellite is not a solution for everything, so within Ethio telecom’s mandate there is a small portion we believe we can help achieve. We do not pretend that we have a solution for all that Ethio telecom needs to deliver.
Question: How different is it for you to work in a country that has a single state owned telecom operator as supposed to in an open market with more than one operator?
Saidou:
There isn’t really any significant difference because at the end of the day, if you have one operator or ten, the aim is to providethe end user with the best service. We have seen countries where there are more than one player, what happened is that at the beginning there was this rush to have new services, and in many cases the prices went down a bit, but after a few years you can see that things stabilize.
So there isn’t really a major difference except that you talk to one company instead of more. What we do in all the markets with single or multiple players is say - this is how we believe we can help you deliver.
I haven’t seen any country that would say; no we don’t want to adopt this new technology or this solution that can help us connect to the most people in a fast and cost effective way. So for us in a nutshell, we adopt our strategy to our local environment whether it is one company we need to deal with or several, it doesn’t matter.
Question: What is your capacity with regards to security, such as incidents of satellite jamming and soon?
Saidou:
Jamming or interference can happen anywhere, we have invested heavily in making sure we provide top quality services to our customers across the world. So when there are challenges with jamming and interference, the experts we have in the company quickly pinpoint where the source of a jam or interference is and we use whatever vehiclesat our disposal to fix it. So it is not affecting our operations that heavily. When it comes to defense and security, there isn’t any particular issue; these are areas where we would maybe talk to a particular body of a given country.
Question: Many people use satellites here in the country as well, and sometimes people can’t find particular television stations because of interferences by a certain body. How do you deal with that?
Saidou:
We work around international laws and regulations, we are not involved in politics, we are technical people, and we provide connectivity. When we have a customer, that customer follows therules and regulations. When you sign up to be on our platform, you agree to behave in a certain way. When you breach that agreement, we have to tell you that you are in breach of your contract. We work with the rules and regulations that have been established not only by us but also international community.
Question: What is your future plan in Ethiopia?
Saidou:
One of the plans is to really see how we can support the delivery of the GTPII, to help Ethio telecom connect the masses - help the operator provide connectivity to the most remote areas in Ethiopia in a cost effective manner and as soon as possible. We also know that Ethiopia has its own ambition to have its own satellite and we have expertise we can offer on that. These are some of the things we are hoping to be able to deliver this year and the years to come.
Question: So should we expect Ethio telecom to start providing quality services anytime soon?
Saidou:
I didn’t know that Ethio telecom was not providing quality services so I cannot comment on that. What I can tell you from our perspectives is that we are going to do whatever we can and that is the bit we can provide to make sure that it is top quality.
Again, I would like to insist that the services we provide here are similar to what we provide anywhere else in the world. Of course it is a process, we will adopt and we will make sure that what we provide is not second class service.

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Keeping the faith PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 18 January 2016 07:57

Hopes are high that rainfall in 2016 will save millions

In Ethiopia 10.1 million people will need food assistance in 2016, 400,000 children are malnourished and 1.8 million children are out of school due the crippling drought. The Government has stated that it is in need of USD 1.2 billion of emergency funds, and so far only a fraction of that amount has been met. There is uncertainty throughout; the international community may not provide the needed funding, or may not do so in time. All hope is in what seems unlikely – that the rains this year will come just in time to avoid catastrophe. The country is in the brink of yet another tragedy, however, there is little action to match the urgency of the current drought. It will be ‘a long year ahead’ for Ethiopia, says John Graham, Country Director for Save the Children Ethiopia, and yet he is adamant that ‘we have to hope that the rains will be good’. Capital’s Eskedar Kifle spoke to John Graham about the drought, its potential for destruction and of what needs to be done to evade crisis.

Capital: The drought has received international media coverage and all are saying the situation is quite bad, is it really as bad as it is portrayed?
John Graham:
I think the situation is very bad in terms of lack of rainfall. I think people would be shocked if they went around and talked to pastoralists and farmers in affected areas who have lost so much. So many of their animals are dead, most have lost all of their crops so I think people would be very shocked if they talked to these people. On the positive side, Ethiopia has had a period of economic growth so is not as vulnerable to this kind of drought, people’s capacity to survive the droughts is improved, we don’t see people heading off to feeding camps and things like that.
Also, because systems are now in place to try and get food to them in their houses, before they start to suffer, the drought is less visible compared to previous droughts, which had huge impacts on human suffering. But, I would invite anyone to go to the affected areas and to talk to the people to find out just how bad the situation is. Add a comment

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Pushing ideas PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 13 January 2016 06:33

Having a business idea is good – in fact it’s great, but that’s not enough, says Markos Lemma, Co-founder and Manager of iceaddis. Ideas need to be developed through exchange; dialogue, connections, support both technical and financial and iceaddis does just that, providing a push to ideas to createaction. Established in 2011, iceaddis provide startups with the tools they need to launch their company and products. Though relatively unknown, and fairly new in Ethiopia, organizations like iceaddis are very well known in other countries for supporting innovative businesses to become successful. Capital’s Eskedar Kifle spoke Markos Lemma of iceaddis about the organization’s work as well as the challenges and opportunities for startups in Ethiopia.

Capital: Tell us about iceaddis.
Markos Lemma:
We wanted to create a space where people from different backgrounds - startup businesses, investors, researchers and so on - can come and connect. When we started iceaddis, it was at Addis Ababa University’ s Ethiopian Institute of Architecture, Building Construction and City Development (EiABC). Within this organization, in the beginning, we asked very basic questions like where could youth go if they wanted to create something interesting and innovative. Especially if you are a university student about to graduate and have a great idea, it would be very difficult to transform that idea into a viable business.
If you have ideas and you want to open a company, you need connections and you need people to help such as legal advice and finding funding because most students don’t have the capital to start a company on their own. They also need to know the market and what kind of a customer base they need, understand customers’ behaviors. If the idea involves production, then they need to also have a prototype and see how that works. It really is complex work and most people drop the idea entirely because it is too complex.
What we try to do is make this process simple for them, sort of like one stop shop; they can get all these different services in one place. They can come to us and ask us what to do, we can match them with different teams, help them with product development and provide mentorship so that they can start putting their ideas into action.
Not many people know what a startup means so when we started, we had to conduct several public dialogues about what the whole thing means, what a tech community is and what working together can bring. We give the startups that come to us soft skills training on how to communicate with people, talk to people to find funding as well as more tailored trainings such as entrepreneurship trainings.
Capital: How big is your network?
Markos
: Our network is not that big, iceaddis has about 5000 people in reach. For us, it is not small because we have a wide range of people to interact with, but as a technology ecosystem, its incomparable to Kenya, Germany or Silicon Valley. We have a lot of challenges, telecom sector is not well established and it is very expensive, which limits people’s interactions.
If you look at interactions within the public sphere, mostly it is in form of social media like facebook; there is a lot of dependence on that. I am not critical of it but there needs to be more face to face interaction be able to hold discussions. Not a lot of people know when new startups are launched or new products are launched because there is no platform for it. That is why we also hold product launch events here at iceaddis.
Capital: Tell us about the startup program you have.
Markos:
It is a very well structured program, we take up to eight to ten startups annually and we work with them through the different processes. Our support consists of mentoring and one to one coaching. So far, we have been supporting 14 startups and most of them are already on the market.
Capital: Can you give us a clear definition of what a startup actually is?
Markos:
We define a start up as a business at an early stage. A startup is an innovative idea with a very small team that hasn’t been established for a long period of time. It is a company run by two to 10 people and also established in the last two to five years; that is the startup phase. It is the opposite of corporate; corporate is usually well established with many employees.
For example Uber is a billion dollar company but it is still a start up because it is only managed by a few people. Startups are, for me, more innovative; they bring something new. But of course the definition of startup is different in different places.
Capital: What are the criteria for the startups you take on?
Markos:
The major criteria are two; one is that the idea should be innovative; we don’t want to support something that is already happening. For example there is Deliver Addis, they provide food delivery service. So if someone new comes and says their idea is to provide food delivery system, we wouldn’t want to support that because it is already there and unless they don’t offer something different. It has too be innovative enough in the Ethiopian context and they have to prove that. They must have a well thought out and researched proposal on the market and their target customers.
The second criterion is that the idea should be sellable, it should have market value. People always come up with innovative ideas especially in universities and usually the idea is good but it can’t sell. It cannot be just for fun, it needs to have economic value.
Capital: Do a lot of people come to you with a lot of ideas hoping to make it a reality?
Markos:
We have received several requests from many startups to get support; there is definitely a need for our services. There aren’t many organizations that do what we do; there is the government owned Entrepreneurship Development Center (EDC); they have a generic training for all kinds of entrepreneurs which is also really good, we send some of our startups to take those trainings.
There are also other hubs such as xHub Addis who are trying to support technology startups. So there aren’t many services out there, because of that we receive a lot of requests, over five to six every week, asking for our services but we have limitations and we only support five startups every six months.
In addition, when you look at universities, they are still having infrastructure being built and going through educational reform; they don’t really provide a creative space. So after leaving the university, most students don’t really come up with really good innovative ideas, they are more attracted to tested ideas like opening a shop and making a living. So the quality of the entries we get are also not very good and don’t meet our standards.
Capital: How important is the role iceaddis is playing to inspire young people to create their own jobs, because unemployment is an issue in Ethiopia?
Markos:
There are very basic things that help entrepreneurship sector grow. Everybody knows it is an important sector; the question is, how do we grow it. There is a cultural shift in general; if you are looking at the Ethiopian entrepreneurial ecosystem, first if you are a business minded person, you are not admired compared to in other societies such as China, for example. That is changing, a lot successful business are being admired, so that cultural shift is already happening.
Also, business people now want to have something new, in most places in Addis you can see many cafés offering similar services lined up in one strip. If you go to Merkato there are different areas assigned to different commodities and in those areas the same item is sold for mostly similar prices. But now people want to create and provide something different to what is already next to them; they try to be different. The mindset of the society and of consumers is changing.
The government knows that the way forward is entrepreneurship and the Ministry of Education is promoting that principle. What we believe is that the sector requires basic things, such as a culture of discussion, information sharing and so on. The infrastructure is also missing; telecom is extremely important and of course there is need for funding as well. Banks should be open to support new ideas and investors should take risks. At iceaddis, our contribution is limited but we try to fill those gaps to our capacity.
Capital: You have mentioned some of the challenges and how you try to fill the gap. But lets say somebody doesn’t have access to your services and still faces the stated challenges, how should they pursue their entrepreneurial ideas?
Markos:
Even though success mostly depends on the person, the external factors also have a huge impact. It is very difficult for me to answer this question because you at least need very basic infrastructure, basic skills and basic connections for the idea to work. Unless you have these things, I don’t think one can be successful in any sector of business.
Capital: What advice would you give a person with a really good idea but without access to your services.
Markos:
When I speak to young people at the university or other places, my advice is that there are basic things that everybody can do. For instance, sharing your ideas with others; many think that if they do that then someone else will steal it. But I believe that the more you share your ideas, the more you create opportunities for yourself, someone my hear about your idea and then connect you to another person with a similar idea so you can work together or even find somebody that is willing to invest in the idea.
Branding is also very important. Right now, we have many technological tools to self brand, like anyone can create a blog, have access to facebook to promote ideas, and new tools will keep coming to the market. People in the university don’t really see the potential, they want to do self branding after they graduate, but why not do it before then? So by the time you graduate, your potential customers and partners know of you.
The last thing I recommend is that you need to prototype; a lot of people have good ideas but they don’t make it happen, you need to make it and show it to people that may help you move your idea and plans forward.

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Buy Ethiopian PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 04 January 2016 07:34

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. Add a comment

Last Updated on Monday, 04 January 2016 07:43
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Starwood adds Four Points to the brand hotel family PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 28 December 2015 08:03

It has been almost 15 years since the first Starwood Hotels & Resorts branded hotel - Sheraton Addis - was opened in Ethiopia. The group were satisfied with their lone hotel in the country but have recently changed their mind and have decided to open a second.
Four Points by Sheraton is a Starwood hotel brand targeted towards business travelers and small conventions is set to open in Ethiopia within three years. On Tuesday, Alem Fitsum, hotel owner, announced a deal with Starwood to build a 27-storey hotel with 500 rooms at an investment of 2.6 billion birr. Capital’s Eskedar Kifle spoke to Alem about the hotel project and the local hospitality sector.

Capital: Tell us about your businesses.
Alem Fitsum:
Alem Genet Trade and Industry, is an umbrella company and under it are a paper factory, a metal sheet and PBC factories. In addition to manufacturing, we are now venturing into the hotel industry. It has been nearly 15 years since we started working in the manufacturing sector. Add a comment

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