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Addis Ababa: hello PE

When I heard about the US investor, Gabriel Schulze, who’d gone out on a limb and started up Ethiopia’s first private equity fund, I couldn’t wait to meet him.

The feeling wasn’t mutual. Famously reticent, it took me more than a year to convince him to meet me. But when we did, we ending up busting our two-hour time slot over tea and coffee at a private members’ club in London and speaking for six hours. You can now read the interview from that meeting, Portrait of a frontier investor, on FT.com. Continue reading »

Somaliland, a small, fragile economy struggles for a regional role against the odds. Katrina Manson, East Africa correspondent reports on the new airport recently built in the capital Hargeisa.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam will be the largest hydroelectric power plant in Africa when completed, delivering 6,000MW – but the project has attracted much controversy. The FT’s East Africa correspondent Katrina Manson reports.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam will be the largest hydroelectric power plant in Africa when completed, delivering 6,000MW. The cost and the potential impact of diverting the Blue Nile have created controversy in the region. The FT’s East Africa correspondent Katrina Manson reports.

Bullish comments from Ethiopia on Wednesday about its chances of World Trade Organisation membership. The foreign ministry said it was on track to join in 2015.

Is that realistic? Continue reading »

Checking prices

When Ethiopia set up its commodity exchange in 2008, few observers foresaw the demand it would generate. But five years on, the ECX has shown that a bourse can help tackle food insecurity in poor nations, and countries are now falling over themselves to replicate its successes. Continue reading »

Ethiopia’s government is famously protective of its economy, especially telecoms, banking and retail. So when the late prime minister, Marxist-influenced Meles Zenawi, met senior Walmart executives face to face last year, it might have seemed an incongruous pairing.

But rising food inflation, combined with traders hoarding goods to avoid government-imposed price caps, made the prospect of big stores arriving to deliver cut-price goods appealing.

Negotiations are continuing with the American giant under Meles’s successor Hailemariam Desalegn (pictured). But progress is slow. Continue reading »

At between 4-5 litres a year, Ethiopia’s beer per capita consumption is one of the lowest in the region. Yet its market has doubled over the last five years thanks to its growing population, urbanisation and rising incomes. All this is proving to be an irresistible draw for global brewers – with Heineken the latest to announce plans to build a new $156m brewery in the country. Continue reading »

The link between one of the world’s most powerful corporate leaders and a small bank in Ethiopia might not be immediately obvious. In this case, it’s an IBM server, which powers Awash International Bank. But soon it could be a lot more if Ginni Rometty (pictured) has anything to do with it.

Rometty, IBM’s chief executive, is spending a week in Africa with her top 15 executives. It’s the first time so many of them have been in one place outside New York. It’s also the first time IBM has convened its chief executives from all over the continent. Continue reading »

Ethiopia appears to be doing something right. One of the world’s five fastest growing economies in 2010, it’s expected to reach 7 per cent growth this year and next and the government hopes for double digit growth in the medium term.

But this is not a natural resources bonanza. The economy is still largely dependent on agriculture, but has seen much of its growth from a boost in services. Yet foreign investment is limited, and the country has not benefitted from the non-cash payments revolution that has boosted other countries in the region such as Kenya. No wonder, then, that companies such as Visa are making encouraging noises. Continue reading »

Sifting through data on payments for goods and services to garner information about consumer buying habits is a well-established marketing tool in the west.

In sub-Saharan Africa the practice is still in its infancy due to a lack of sources of information, but that’s changing fast. With the rise of mobile payment transactions, a host of information is becoming available on consumer habits. In Ethiopia, for example, one company has already begun culling and collating data. Continue reading »

Flower growers, among Ethiopia’s key export revenue earners, are confident that the death of prime minister Meles Zenawi, won’t push the govenment from its commitments to supporting agribusiness.

Hailemariam Desalegn, acting prime minister during Meles’ absence, is set to be sworn in as Ethiopia’s leader until 2015 in an apparent effort to smooth the transition, and is expected to carry on where Meles left off with supportive conditions for investors in agriculture, Ethiopia’s most important industry. Continue reading »

The Ethiopian prime minister Meles Zenawi, whose death was announced on Tuesday following prolonged ill health, won’t be mourned by the dissidents that he repressed or their supporters.

But he will be missed by those who value his role in creating political stability and in promoting growth in an impoverished country.

While Ethiopia remains one of the world’s poorest countries (ranked 174 out of 187 on the UN’s Human Development Index) real growth in GDP has averaged 11 per cent over the past 6 years, well above the sub-Saharan Africa average. Continue reading »

The World Bank has approved loans worth $684m for the Eastern Electricity Highway Project, which aims to transport Ethiopian power to Kenya and beyond.

The project is part of a $1.3bn plan to open up an eastern African power network, but has attracted controversy due to social and environmental worries over the knock on effects of hydro-power in Ethiopia. Continue reading »

What will 1,500 Turks be doing this year in the desolate space between Weldiya and Awash in Ethiopia? The answer is “building a railroad” following an announcement on Thursday by Turkish construction company Yapi Merkezi.

The contract is part of ambitious plans by the Ethiopian government to build a 5,000 km railway network – and a sign that Chinese companies increasingly face competition from other EM companies in the battle for Africa’s infrastructure. Continue reading »