The visit of President Emmanuel Macron flourished with penned business, military and economic cooperation between the public sector and private partnerships.
During his two-day visit to Ethiopia, starting March 12, the president toured Lalibela and promised to provide assistance for the restoration work of rock-hewn monolithic 12th century churches.
Macron also praised the changes led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. He appreciated the moves that the country has followed up with in economic, social and political spheres. He expressed his government’s and his full pledged support to extend the change strongly.
“We are highly eager to provide support for your changes in whole aspects but the Ethiopian public should give time for the PM to achieve the desired changes. Political reforms and democracy needs time,” he said to the general public at a joint press conference at the Office of the Prime Minister, held on March 12.
The two leaders met in Paris late last year and the PM invited the president of France to visit Ethiopia.
During the same day the president met President Sahilework Zewde, who studied in France. The two presidents met in a closed door session after the President’s dinner at the National Place. The two president’s talks focused on cementing the discussion and future cooperation that the PM and the French president agreed on before.
France is a historic ally of Ethiopia. It has played a role in modernizing Ethiopia by introducing new technology. It built a railway connecting Djibouti with Addis Ababa over a century ago.
PM Abiy recalled the cooperation of the two countries by mentioning the railway line. In the latest period, France, the second biggest economy in the euro zone has provided several means of support mainly in the economic area.
The French Development Agency (AFD) has been engaged in the support of urbanization programs, aviation energy and other areas, while the private sector also has a major role in Ethiopian investment. Currently there are about 50 French and affiliated FDIs in the country.
During the current visit by the president, which is the first since 2013, the two countries agreed to cooperate in various fields.
Before the joint press conference there were already signed agreements. These included: defense cooperation, sharing experience, improving the capacity of the Ethiopian military, supporting the formation of a navy, enhancing the defense and air force. PM Abiy said that the military cooperation has a holistic approach, from military officer training to supporting nuclear technology. The PM said that he knows the French military and its capacity since he was in Rwanda on a peace keeping mission.
Macron said that French forces will be here to support the Ethiopian military in terms of training besides sending Ethiopian officers to enhance military skills. Security is also the other area that the countries will collaborate on, according to the leaders.
The other agreement signed by Ahmed Shide, Minister of Finance and Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister of European and Foreign Affairs of France, is made up of two points focusing on finance and economic reforms, and heritage protection.
Ahmed Shide also signed an agreement with Rémy Rioux, Director General of the France Development Agency to enhance French investment in Ethiopia.
At the press conference, Macron said that the Meridiam, French investment fund, has allocated 500 million euro for geothermal investment in Ethiopia. Macron’s government via AFD also gave another 100 million euros. Of this 15 percent is a donation to support the reform that PM Abiy is leading.
Macron started his part of the press conference by offering condolences for the recent Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 plane crash. PM Abiy also stated that the French president has expressed his interest to provide support regarding the crash. Macron also met Tewolde Gebremariam, CEO of Ethiopian Airlines Group before his departure to Nairobi.
Supporting agricultural transformation is another area of cooperation, according to Macron.
Public and Private Deals
In relation with the coming of the president several and influential French companies also visited Ethiopia. On Wednesday at the event held at Hilton Hotel seven agreements in business and space science cooperation were signed.
At the event, a memorandum of understanding between the Ethiopian Space Science and Technology Institute and the National Centre for Space Studies of France was signed to support the space sector of Ethiopia.
The other agreement that was also sealed was between the Ethiopian Investment Commission and Castel Group to realize the company’s SOMDIAA, which is a major player in the agro-food industry in Africa, in maize processing plant. Castel via BGI is a pioneer Franco firm that has invested in Ethiopia since the free market was introduced about a quarter of a century ago. The target of SOMDIAA is to invest USD 15 million in the first phase with 60,000 tons of maize processing capacity per annum.
At the event, MACCFA Freight Logistics, a local major freight forwarder, agreed with the French CMA CGM, one of the top three logistics actors in Ethiopia to get a share of the local company.
The global vessel mover CMA CGM has been working with MACCFA, who was a local agent of the French firm, for the past 14 years, according to Mulugeta Assefa, CEO of MACCFA.
Recently the government of Ethiopia has allowed foreign firms to engage in the logistics sector, which was only allowed for Ethiopians, on up to a 49 percent share.
According to the CEO of MACCFA, the government’s decision has helped them to give a share of one of the global logistics giants.
CMA CGM has also agreed with the Ethiopian Shipping and Logistics Services Enterprise (ESLSE), the sole vessel mover and logistics public firm in the country, to work together on Mojo Dry Port. Roba Megersa, CEO of ESLSE, told Capital that the agreement will allow the public enterprise to get knowhow on port handling and sharing experiences from CMA CGM. He said that the French firm has business relations with ESLSE to move cargo. “They are highly interested in obtaining a share of the public enterprise and the current deal that allows cooperation shall show them their future decision,” Roba said.
A letter of intent between Meridiam, Global Infrastructure Hub and the Ethiopian Ministry of Finance’s Public Private Partnership Directorate for the implementation of the Africa Infrastructure Fellowship Program (AIFP) was also signed.
A Memorandum of Understanding between the Canal + Group and Tewodros Abraham was also signed for the implementation of a distribution agreement for the commercialization of a pay-TV offer.
Tewodros told Capital he has formed a TV company about a year ago that shall boost the sector business. “We have agreed on representing the company here in Ethiopia, besides this company is targeted to transmit different programs like history or kids shows in Amharic,” Tewodros said. He said that the agreement is part of the cultural exchange between the two countries.
CLS Logistics, which is owned by Tewodros Abraham, has also agreed with the continental giant logistics actor Bolloré Africa Logistics to provide shares in the local company. “Previously we have been working under agency agreement. In the agreement, which has been extended for 12 years we have represented them here but now we agreed to the joint venture agreement that shall give the local company access to transferring technology, transferring finance and other areas in addition to an actual management share,” Tewodros said.
CLS’s and Bolloré agreement aims to offer their customers dedicated services meeting the highest international standards and mainly targets to improve the supply chain of strategic sectors in the country such as textile and coffee.
The two bodies have also targeted to invest in modern logistics hubs like big warehouses in dry ports.