Weight limit on containers imposed by the Maritime Affairs Authority - A happy End

Posted in Advocacy

In close cooperation with the ENLBA (The Ethiopia-Netherlands Business Association), the EU Delegation and the EUBFE, sent a letter to the Ethiopian Authorities to explain the difficulties encountered by the EU
business community due to suddenly imposed weight limit on containers as instructed by the Ethiopian Ministry of Transport – Maritime Affairs Authority and the negative impact of this new provision on the
The “temporary work rule”, passed on August 12 th, 2013, determined the weight of imported goods in a single container to a maximum of 20 tonnes for 20-foot container. This led to a sudden increase in cost of transportation and consequently an increase in cost of imported raw materials, between 5-30%. 
Following the letter issued by EU Delegation and the EU Business Forum, and subsequent informal consultations held with the Ministry of Transport, the Government of Ethiopia eventually decided to lift the weight limit.

Comments on the revised customs law

Posted in Advocacy

On October 28th, 2013, the Ethiopian Revenue and Customs Authority (ERCA) organised a meeting to gather  ERCA management and some key  foreign business communities, including EUBFE supported by the EU Delegation, to discuss the general customs operations and the draft Revised Customs Law. Following the meeting, EUBFE was invited to query its members and come back with structured and practical comments to the draft that would be used by ERCA to improve its drafting.
Thanks to your prompt feedback, we prepared and sent detailed and practical comments on the draft law. 
To sum up: we support the positive amendments brought by the new draft, such as self-assessment procedure and post transaction audit, electronic filing, administrative fines of some infractions (vs. automatic criminal penalties), early release of goods, training as well as the simplified customs procedures. 
However, from your experiences, constructive comments were made on the definitions within the law, the online publication of the regulations, the insertion of principle of non-retroactivity, the operations and handling of containers, spare parts imports, goods release, the Authorised Economic Operators (AEOs), the appeal and complaints handling, HS codes and tax rates, the valuation, or even the electronic filing.
We hope these will be taken into consideration by ERCA. We will follow up on this on the occasion of the next meeting with ERCA

Licensing issues: Discussions with H.E. The Deputy Prime Minister

Posted in Advocacy

The EUBFE, together with the EU Delegation, expressed in a letter dated November 26th, 2013, some of its concerns regarding the unexpected difficulties and obstacles many of our membersencountered last year in renewing their business registration and licensing and asked for a meeting to discuss these concerns.
As a follow up to the letter, on December 23 rd, the EU Ambassador – H.E. Ms Chantal Hebberecht - met the Deputy Prime Minister, H.E.Debretsion Gebremichael. The Deputy Prime Minister was very appreciative of the letter and the communication of concerns expressed by the EUBFE, as this helps the Government of Ethiopia to “provide better services”. It confirmed the general impression that often these types of issues and messages are not well-communicated upwards and that there is a real added value in organising a structured dialogue, opening a channel of communication between the EU businesses as a community and the highest levels of the Ethiopian administration. 
Amid various matters raised during the meeting, the Deputy Prime Minister confirmed the existence of a special window at the Ministry of Trade for the largest investors, which despite not being advertised, exists.He also offered assistance in looking into open cases for renewal of licenses for the EU business community

Ethiopia Economic and Trade Report 2015

Posted in Consultation

Labelled as one the "African lion" economy, Ethiopia has recently been getting much attention from international investors and observers, appealed by its impressive decade growth, its stability and its large domestic market. In this context, was fiscal year (FY) 2014/2015 a good year for Ethiopia? And more importantly, is Ethiopia on the track to reach its main goal, to become a lower middle-income country by 2025?
The year 2015 witnessed important downturns which affected the economies of the Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Overall growth in the region is projected at 3.75% in 2015, down from 5% in 2014, on account of less favourable conditions on commodity markets and more stringent global financial conditions.

In this context, Ethiopia is one of the few countries in the region where the combined recent trends did not have as much of a negative impact. Growth seemed to be holding up notably due to (i) continue investment in infrastructure, engaged under better financial market conditions; (ii) relatively strong private consumption; and (iii) historically low oil prices coupled with less unfavourable market price movements for its main commodities.
The GoE approved in December 2015 its second Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP II) which covers the 2015/2016 – 2019/2020 period. The main features of GTP II are articulated around the primary objective for Ethiopia to become a lower middle income country by 2025. This objective entails an annual average real GDP growth rate of 11% (with 8%, 20% and 10% growth for the agriculture, industry and services sectors respectively) with a high priority given to the export sector through (i) diversification; (ii) increased supply of high value crops, horticulture and manufactured goods; (iii) a stable exchange rate; and (iv) stronger banking and finance institutions.
GDP Growth
The Ethiopian economy pursued its decade old growth pattern with a real GDP growth of 10.2% registered in FY 2014/15 (compared with 11.2% projected in GTP I) still largely above the SSA region's 4.4% average for that period.

The share of each sector in GDP continued to confirm the shift from agriculture (38.8%), towards industry (15.2%) while the services stagnated this year (46.6%). The corresponding absolute growth per sector came out for FY 2014/15 at 6.4% for the agriculture sector (a moderate increase from 5.4% last year linked with productivity gains and an improved Productive Safety Net Programme), 10.2% for services (a substantial decrease from 13% last year on account of reduced activity in the largely dominating whole sale and retail sector) and 21.6% for industry (a sizable increase but still essentially attributed to the construction sector which registered a 36.8% growth while manufacturing failed to pick up speed and growth remained around 16% for the third consecutive year).

The FY 2015/16 GDP growth of 11% forecasts by the GoE continues to look overoptimistic given constraints such as (i) limited growth of key trading partners (especially among emerging markets); (ii) underperforming export sector and uncertainty over the capacity of the private sector to respond to the GoE's call for more involvement (in a context of limited credit/forex availability and an overall unfavourable business climate); (iii) lack of reliable statistical data; and (iv) consequences of the recent failed rainy seasons.
Ethiopia's year-on-year annual inflation pursued its upward trend all through 2015 and reached its peak in September 2015 with an overall inflation rate of 11.9% up from 5.8% a year before. Overall inflation eventually stabilized around 10% in December with 12.1% for food inflation and 7.7% for non-food inflation.
Monetary Policy

For FY 2014/15, Ethiopia's monetary policy continued to be geared towards keeping inflation rate in single digits and maintaining control on exchange rates.

Ethiopia maintained a regime of managed-floating exchange rate as the National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE) pursued its policy of gradual depreciation. The nominal exchange rate reached 20.09 against USD in FY 2014/15 representing an annual depreciation of 5.4%. At the same time the Real Effective Exchange Rate continued to appreciate (21% year on year according to the IMF), since the USD appreciated again most currencies in 2015. This lack of competitiveness of the exchange rate remains a concern for the economy as it does not help improving export competitiveness in a context of export falling and deflationary trends on the trading partner's side.

External sector
Based on NBE data, the external sector displayed a 29.1% deterioration in the trade balance in FY 2014/15 still on account of increased imports for infrastructure and developmental projects coupled with export underperformance.
The concentration of export earnings remained important with coffee, oilseeds and gold representing 53% of all export earnings.
The availability of forex has been problematic all through 2015 for the private sector, as most reserves continued to be directed to finance imports of intermediate and capital goods for public investments (resources were also used to import food to drought affected areas). Private operators regularly complained over long delays for opening Letters of Credit for access to forex.
In FY 2014/15, overall agricultural production of cereals increased by 45% while yield/ha grew by 22%. However, crop yields in Ethiopia are still lingering at 55% of the world average.

The transition of subsistence oriented smallholder farmers into more market oriented production intensified although much remains to be done. Large-scale value addition and agro-industrialization have also been largely promoted by the GoE.

Due to the negative effects of El Niño, resulting in rainfall irregularities, the rural population requiring humanitarian assistance in 2016 reached 10.2 million people, showing the precarious nature of Ethiopia's smallholder agriculture.

Industrial Parks (IPs) are a prominent strategy of GTP II to overcome current bottlenecks and boost private investments. The planned job creation is targeted at 200,000 per year but reaching this target will entail overcoming the major challenge of the lack of high skill employees required to increase the employment share of the manufacturing sector.

The GoE established a dedicated Industrial Parks Development Corporation (IPDC) to promote and drive this strategy's implementation. IPDC prepared a national master plan aimed at the development of a total of 10 IPs (under domestic/foreign public investment funding worth 5 billion USD) which should become operational between 2016 and 2017.

The GoE has confirmed in the GTP II its very ambitious objectives for the road sector (to double the current road network of 100.000 km in 5 years, reaching 200.000 km by 2020). One of the most important projects finalized in the road sector in 2015 was the new expressway extension project linking the expressway Addis Ababa – Adama to Modjo and Hawassa, for a total of 203km.

The Addis Ababa's light railway was inaugurated in September 2015. The urban railway project was funded by China's Exim Bank (for a total amount of 475 million USD) and should contribute to solve the city's growing road transport problems.

Construction of the new electrified railway between Addis Ababa and Djibouti has not yet been completed but freight service was launched to enable the delivery of large quantities of wheat to areas affected by drought.
In December 2015, the GoE announced that the GERD was 55% complete and the diversion of the Blue Nile will begin.

In September 2015 Ethiopia and Djibouti signed an agreement for the construction of a 550 kilometre line to transport diesel, gasoline and jet fuel from Djibouti to Awash.

In July 2015, the Ethiopian Electric Power and the Reykjavik Geothermal company signed a Power Purchase Agreement for the first 500 MW of the Corbetti geothermal project, which was announced as a possible 1,000 MW project. Upon completion, it would be Africa's largest geothermal facility and likely the world largest.

Transport / Logistics
Ethiopian Airlines (EAL) performed remarkably in 2015, registering a profit of ETB 3.5 billion. EAL also continued to expand its fleet and opened 8 new international routes, confirming Addis Ababa's position as a hub for air transport in Africa.

The Ethiopian Shipping & Logistics Services Enterprise reached an agreement with ERCA to deliver shipments directly to the warehouses of large quantity importers who import full containers. This revived multimodal approach should reduce the cargo congestion at dry ports but remains subject to challenges such as low quality of services and poor handling of goods.

Ethiopia ranked poorly (130th out of 143 states) in the Global Information Technology report 2015. Increased competition in the sector should remain an important objective for the GoE.

Ethiopia was selected as 2015 top destination in the world for tourists by the European Council on Tourism and Trade. Tourism in Ethiopia generates around USD 3 billion of revenues yearly and employs around 1 million people. With GTP II, the GoE made the bold announcement that it intends to triple foreign visitors to more than 2.5 million by 2020, which, if achieved, will boost foreign exchange reserves.
Based on the latest Ernst & Young's Africa attractiveness report 2015, Africa became the world's second largest FDI destination in 2014 with USD 128 billion capital investment and Ethiopia registered an 88.2% increase in FDI projects, emerging as the 8th largest recipient of FDI projects in Africa. However, this trends need to be confirmed in 2015 and 2016. Poor performance in the 2016 Doing Business and Global Competitiveness Index might negatively impact investors' interest.

Overall, the major trends in Ethiopia's economy remain "largely favourable" as qualified by the IMF in its latest Article IV review, with (i) sustained growth (for more than a decade now); (ii) single digit inflation; (iii) tight monetary policy and prudent fiscal management; (iv) increasing FDIs and remittances; (v) rising domestic savings and capital formation; (vi) continued high levels of public investments in infrastructure; and (vii) a new industrial policy geared towards diversification and transformation of the economy.

Yet, downsides are still present and new ones are surfacing which may jeopardize the 2025 vision expressed by the GoE, such as (i) an over ambitious national planning based on unclear financing capacity and overoptimistic forecasts; (ii) the disappointing results of the manufacturing sector with a corresponding insufficient export revenue generation; (iii) strong impediments still limiting the development of the private sector; (iv) increasing shortage of foreign currency hampering economic activity; (v) limited access to financing for local private investment; (vi) an increasingly overvalued exchange rate impacting competitiveness of exports; (vii) a plunging current deficit and an increasing public debt (notably contracted by state owned enterprises); and (viii) a concentrated financial market still largely dominated by CBE.

Currency Devalution: Pros and Cons

Posted in Consultation

The euro was worth 6.94 birr in October 2000, and then peaked in April 2014 at 27 birr before falling to 21.93 in March 2015.During the fifteen-year period economic fundamentals were as follows:

Early 2000, Ethiopia’s external debt was unsustainable.  Debt forgiveness/rescheduling in 2000-2008 and 2010 – plus substantial external aid – have brought indebtedness to a manageable level.  In 2014, the debt to GDP ratio was a healthy 22.6% (est.), but is now increasing due to public sector investment expenditure.  External debt as a percentage of exports and primary income looks less healthy as export performance remains unsatisfactory.

If the inflation differential between Ethiopia and Euro zone turns out 8.5% in 2015, then the exchange rate recorded in Q1-2015 means a 25% real exchange rate appreciation of the BIRR against the Euro compared to 2014.  Unrealistic, considering Ethiopia’s CA deficit – even when corrected for FDI inflows – while the Euro zone CA may top €200 billion surplus in 2015. Finally, the forex reserves exceeded 3-month worth of imports in 2002-03; reserves are currently about 2 months only. Foreign currency shortage is a recurrent problem in Ethiopia explaining the existence of a parallel market and rationing of foreign exchange.  Of course, the issue of devaluation is sensitive because devaluation produces winners and losers. But, what devaluation seeks to achieve is a change in the relative price of exportable goods (vis-à-vis non-tradables) resulting hopefully in a boost of export performance, and, a disincentive to imports (thus a strategy of efficient import substitution). 


The choice of an exchange rate regime is important for competitiveness, macroeconomic stability and growth.  Exchange Rate regimes are classified as fixed exchange rate, fully floating market-determined exchange rate or intermediate regimes.  Ethiopian authorities describe their Exchange Rate regime as a managed float (= intermediate regime) with no predetermined path for the exchange rate. 

Before an auction system was established in 1992/93, the BIRR was pegged to the USD at 2.07 BIRR.  An inter-bank foreign exchange 

market was created in October 2001 with the National Bank of Ethiopia intervening.

Historically, depreciation pressures on the BIRR have prevailed. While the USD-BIRR rate stands around 20.5 in May 2015, the IMF (Oct. 2014) estimated the Real Effective Exchange Rate overvaluation in the range of 10-13%.  The “authorities acknowledge that a competitive exchange rate is important but consider too rapid adjustment to be counterproductive due to feedback effects on inflation”. 

Under Ethiopia’s regime:

  • Ethiopians and Residents of Ethiopia surrender, through a forex bureau, all foreign currencies in their possession against payment in BIRR.
  • Exporters are allowed to maintain a retention account to hold a specified amount of their export earnings for a defined period, with the remainder being surrendered by local banks to NBE. The percentage of authorized retention has fluctuated over time (and is determined by Directive; the rate was 10% (Directive 11/1998).
  • The NBE determines terms and conditions for transfer of foreign exchange and the exports or imports of goods (import permits).


The NBE aims to maintain sufficient international reserves to cover (a) payments for immediate and short term imports of commodities and services into Ethiopia, (b) foreign debt payment commitments.  When reserves decline, the Governor considers remedial measures and may suspend issuance of foreign exchange permits.

The bank carries out monetary management with a mix of policy instruments: sale/ purchase of securities issued by Government, a central bank credit facility to cover commercial banks’ short-term need, reserve requirements, setting floor deposit interest rate, use of credit control and moral suasion. 

The Monetary Policy Committee of the NBE reviews quarterly the economic developments and proposes a monetary policy stance to the 

Board of Directors in line with targets for inflation, growth rates of monetary aggregates, GDP growth rate, the real equilibrium exchange rate and the foreign exchange reserve.

The NBE is the biggest generator of foreign currency and enables it to intervene as the major market player, assuring exchange rate stability to some degree.

The dilemma of any policy decision maker is to achieve x targets with y instruments.  If the number of targets exceeds the number of instruments available, then meeting the targets would be a matter of pure coincidence.  Even if the number of Central Bank’s policy instruments exceeds the number of targets, it is not certain that the CB will be able to meet trend targets as it has limited or no influence on productivity growth, investments and external demand. Therefore, it may miss one or several targets.  The question is which ones shall be sacrificed?  


Economists focusing on economic fundamentals as drivers of exchange rate movements look at:

  • Price inflation differentials;
  • Current Account: surpluses (deficits) cause currency appreciation (depreciation).  The long-run equilibrium exchange rate comes with a sustained balanced Current Account.
  • Differentials in domestic/foreign money demand and nominal interest rate, between countries;
  • Stock of foreign debt relative to GNP (or to Exports).  A high ratio is considered a risk.  Potential investors require a risk premium above the normal nominal interest rates in order to make up for the expected future depreciation necessary to rebalance the Current Account deficit.
Pressure for devaluation comes from a deterioration of domestic competitiveness due to domestic inflation being higher than inflation in competitor countries, from the existence of unsustainable Current Account deficits and increase in foreign debt (affecting the creditworthiness), or other reasons (e.g. the structure of foreign debt). 

Speculative attacks do occur resulting in ER movements not in line with fundamentals.

From the observation of two experiences with devaluation (Franc CFA in 1994 and 1997 Asian financial crises) we have learnt that:

  • After devaluation, the Balance of Trade significantly improved in 8 countries out of 14.  It worked for the Asian economies.
  • Export volumes improved, after devaluation, in 7 out of 9 CFA countries.  By contrast, export performance deteriorated in all Asian economies, although the performance was still solid.
  • Growth in Import volumes actually increased in the 10 years following devaluation in 7 out of 9 CFA countries 9 studied.  In all Asian countries imports growth fell, as a result of lower domestic demand, explaining why currency devaluation in the Asian economies improved the Balance of Trade.
  • GDP growth visibly improved in all but one of the CFA countries, constituting a turnaround from negative growth experienced before devaluation.  By contrast, GDP growth in Indonesia, Korea, Thailand and Malaysia fell significantly from previous solid growth, though resuming in year-2.
  • The Investment rate (as % of GDP) improved in all but one of CFA countries studied.  Thus, devaluation is compatible with resource mobilization and GDP growth. By contrast, the investment rate fell in all five Asian economies studied, coming down from very high – unsustainable – rates in Korea, Thailand and Malaysia. 
Post-devaluation inflation is often used as an argument AGAINST. In Indonesia and Thailand, devaluation triggered double-digit inflation for 2 years.  However, fears for sustained inflation were exaggerated; the dynamics of the price spiral is not known beforehand but depends on country-specific circumstances. It is also 

true that domestic price increase erodes the initial positive impact on price competitiveness, but this is a process takes up to ten years in most cases.

The difficulty of CFA economies to maintain high economic growth under conditions of sustainability, following currency devaluation, is linked to a structural issue. For an economy to be able to increase export supply and to substitute for imports, its industry must be sufficiently diversified.  One expects the supply response to be stronger the larger the manufacturing base of the economy.  This was the case in Asia.  Ethiopia’s economy is notoriously undiversified.

In conclusion, currency realignment can work.  If the objective behind a devaluation strategy is to restore price competitiveness, then the devaluation basically BUYS YOU TIME to develop intrinsic competitiveness in your tradables sectors.  Competitiveness requires business upgrading to boost productivity, product/services innovation and market diversification.  These are processes which cannot be changed overnight.

EU consultation meeting: Strenghthening the role of private sector

Posted in Consultation

 At the consultation workshop on the topic of “Strengthening the Role of Private Sector in Achieving Inclusive & Sustainable Growth in Developing Countries”, the European Commission and Mr Roberto Ridolfi, Director, Directorate General for Development and Cooperation, EuropeAid, opened the debate on the role ofthe private sector in developing and emerging economies.
Since the last communication and strategy issued by the European Commission in 2003, the overall development context has substantially evolved, with several emerging economies showing how private sector development has been on the forefront of these countries' overall development agenda, including the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).  
In view of issuing a new EU communication on how EU aid could best facilitate inclusive and sustainable growth through enhanced private sector development, Mr Ridolfi has been travelling to several countries to collect information and feedback from key stakeholders, such as companies, intermediary organisations, governments and diplomats operating locally in the business field. 
H.E. Ms. Chantal Hebberecht, Head of EU Delegation in Ethiopia, opened the workshop by reminding that Ethiopia is a very interesting case study on the matter: it is on track to meet most of the MDG even though the role of the private sector in that achievement would need to be further expanded. At the same time, the World Bank places Ethiopia in the bottom rating in its “Doing business” classification. 
The European Union supports efforts towards a stronger private sector and better investment and business climate. She mentioned the Transformation Triggering Facility, a EUR 10 million project for WTO accession and customs management modernisation or – for that matter- the BizClim financing of EUBFE’s activities. Overall, the European Union remains the most important trade partner of Ethiopia and the 2 largest foreign investor in Ethiopia.
As the new communication is being fine-tuned in April 2014, this workshop aimed at discussing the 10 key  issues concerning, such as: how to come to better targeted business environment reforms, how to increase the employment and poverty impact of private sector development support, what would be needed for stepping up the EU support to SMEs or access to finance. 
We would like to thank again the members of EUBFE who replied to our email and participated in this workshop and commented on the key issues. We hope this will help further strengthen EU support to the private sector in Ethiopia and elsewhere.

EUBFE Comments On New Customs Proclamation

Posted in Consultation

EUBFE-COMMENTS-ON-NEW-CUSTOMS-PROCLAMATIONA new Customs Proclamation has recently been drafted, aiming at replacing Customs Proclamation 622/2009. ERCA took the initiative to present the draft new legislation to foreign investors, by organizing a meeting in the EU Delegation on June 1st, 2012. Following the consultation meeting, the EUBFE prepared a detailed commentary paper on the draft law, putting together concerns and recommendations expressed by the EU business community and European Commission experts.

EUBFE’s Input To The Ministry Of Industry’s Study

Posted in Consultation

EUBFE-INPUT-TO-THE-MINISTRY-OF-INDUSTRY-STUDYAs part of the strengthened dialogue between the Governement and the private sector, a research team from the Ministry of Industry met with representatives of the EUBFE and the EU Delegation on December 3rd, 2012 to prepare a study on the medium and long-term strategy for Ethiopia’s industrial development. The European business community was asked to comment on Ethiopia’s attractiveness, challenges encountered by the private sector and how to make the country more FDI friendly.

Ethiopian Customs Equipped With New Valuation System

Posted in New Initiative

DIALOGUE-WITH-ERCAOn December 1st, 2012, ERCA held a presentation meeting to launch its newly acquired Ethiopian Customs Valuation System which is the result of 3 year of joint work with the Indian Customs Authorities and the Center for Development of Advanced Computing. An ERCA representative introduced the system as “the most advanced system currently used in emerging market” for goods valuation.

EU Export Help Desk Training – 25th – 27th February 2013

Posted in In The Pipeline

EU-EXPORT-HELP-DESK-TRAININGThe EU export help desk (www.exporthelp.europa.eu) is an on-line service of the European Commission providing support to companies from developing countries on how to export to the EU. A mission from the EU Export Helpdesk to Ethiopia is planned from 25-27 February. The mission will include a full day of product specific trainings (leather, organic coffee, oil and sesame seeds) on February 26th. Should you be interested in attending such a training, or if you would like to have more information, kindly contact the EUBFE's secretariat


Posted in In The Pipeline

DIALOGUE-WITH-ERCAIn the framework of the Memorandum of Understanding between the EUBFE and ERCA, a meeting is scheduled to take place on March 1st, 2013. Main focus of the meeting will be on the application of dividend tax. However, other tax and customs issues can also be discussed during this meeting. Should you wish to raise specific tax and customs issues do not hesitate to contact the EUBFE's secretariat at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

An interview with Bruce Hamilton, Director of Verde Beef Processing PLC

Posted in Interviews

Established in 2014, Verde Beef Processing PLC is an agribusiness company with an established feedlot in Adami Tulu, Oromia, Ethiopia on a 1,300 hectare farm.

 For our members who are not yet familiar with your company, can you tell us a bit more about the activities of Verde Beef?  

Our company seeks to become the largest beef production firm in Ethiopia and to  be locally and internationally recognized as a premier producer of high quality  beef. To do so, our business model focuses on buying young calves locally and to  grow them, through a mix of appropriate care and great quality feed, to full size  A  grade steers of which their high quality meat with be exported to Middle East  markets.

Our herd is currently 6,000 head on feed but once fully operational, we aim to be tenfold bigger, at around 60,000 heads. This will generate an annual slaughter in the region of 100,000 head. Our USD 25 million investment includes a USD 10 million first-class abattoir, which, once constructed, will be up to western standards for meat processing.

Why did you decide to invest in Ethiopia? 

First of all, our experienced management team knows the market, having collectively managed several agribusinesses in Ethiopia over the recent years. 

Also, Ethiopia has a very large livestock population, the biggest in Africa, which allows us to source from the local market. The climate in Ethiopia allows for two crops per annum under irrigation, this is a competitive advantage over most other beef producing nations.

Ethiopia is also a great location for our business, as we can reach our Middle East markets quickly and cost-efficiently, through air and sea freight.

Finally, Ethiopia is a growing market on its way to becoming the power house of East Africa. Although we intend to sell only 5% of our production in the local market, it is still a great market to be in.

How is your relationship with the Ethiopian administration and its agencies?

The Ethiopian administration has been very cooperative and efficient in the investment phase of our project. We were able to secure land, Investment Permit and other requirements quite swiftly, which allowed us to begin our operations within 6 months of establishment. We definitely benefited from the fact that our activities are very aligned with the government economic objectives (agro processing, use of Ethiopian’s large livestock resource and an export-oriented business). 

However, it seems that the big picture, as outlined and understood by top officials at the government agencies, is often misunderstood at lower levels. The rationale behind our business model and business decisions is often less understood at this level. As such, we do face many challenges in our everyday operations which cause delays and can sometimes impact significantly our business.  

How did you recruit employees and how is your interaction with the local community?

I believe we have a good relationship with the community. We currently employ 300 people (full-time, part-time and contractors) but we aim to reach 1,500 full-time employees once we get to full capacity. These employees were primarily hired in the local communities around our farm. We also hired from other regions, when we could not find specific expertise in the area. We intend to provide appropriate training and technology transfer as our procedures and processes become fully implemented.

We also provided easy access to drinking water for the communities and a forum was set up to facilitate dialogue between our company and the local population though the forum of community elders.. 

Finally, we buy locally around 40% of what is required for the feed and we created demand for young calves, allowing farmers to generate revenue earlier on their cattle investment. This also facilitates de-stocking which is vital to improving range land quality and the reproductive potential of the herds. As such, there is significant spill over effects from our investment that benefit the local community. 

What would be your recommendations to other EU businesses investing/willing to invest in Ethiopia?

It is very important to do your preliminary research well and to make sure that your business activities will align with the long term economic goals that Ethiopia set for itself, notably in its second Growth and Transformation Plan (2015/2016 – 2019/2020). This country has a clear view on how its economic and social development should occur and it has carved out a specific role for foreign investors.

You also need to be careful not to rely too much on assumptions, past experience and previous business models. Ethiopia is a very specific country and local knowledge is essential in order to do business efficiently in the country.

An interview of Johan Doyer, Managing Director of Heineken in Ethiopia

Posted in Interviews


After less than 4 years from the acquisition of the Bedele and Harar breweries, which were acquired from the GoE in 2011, Heineken have now inaugurated in January 2015 the biggest brewery in Ethiopia.

The €110mln brewery is part of a total investment program of €310mln in the country since 2011. Why Heineken first decided to invest in Ethiopia?

Ethiopia is a young and dynamic beer market with per capita consumption of about 5L, a population of 92 million people and is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. It is therefore no surprise that HEINEKEN is investing for the future and preparing for a more competitive and demanding market. Our objective is to create a leading brewery group in Ethiopia, through a strong portfolio of national and international brands and best in class people, processes and performance, and at the same time be a partner for growth in the communities in which we operate.

Why Heineken decided to invest into building a new facility in Kilinto?

The demand for our beers is growing and we predict will continue to grow over the years to come. We already have breweries in Bedele and Harar, but we needed to add capacity in the Addis Ababa area. It was part of our business plans when we bought Harar and Bedele brewery to build additional capacity closer to the heart of the beer market to 

become a truly national player. In the new brewery, we produce Walia, Bedele and Harar, and other new brands including Heineken will follow.

How is the relationship of the GoE and its agencies? Which is the preferred channel to communicate with the GoE?

The Ethiopian Government has been very supportive starting with the purchase of previously state owned Bedele and Harar breweries which formed the basis of our operating business in Ethiopia. The Government also paved the way to build our new state of the art brewery in Kilinto and has been very supportive through the whole process of acquiring the land and building the brewery. On a wider scale, we have two on-going Public Private Partnerships which have the Government as a key stakeholder. Establishing relationships with key stakeholders in both the government and private sector is very important in Ethiopia.
Which have been the preferred channels you used to recruit the personnel? (Specialized newspapers and/or website, direct link with universities…)
We source talent using various channels like recruitment websites (eg. Ethiojobs), Open Job Fairs, Newspapers, Universities and vocational colleges.
Were you looking for highly skilled employees or for people to be trained? Do you have training programs?

Our focus is not necessarily on the number of years of experience the candidate has but making sure the candidate has ‘Drive to Win’; Integrity; Passion and a high level of Accountability. We also have a Management Trainee Program which aims to build the talent pipeline with University Graduates. They are provided various assignments and development workshops along with on the job training. So far we have recruited from AAU, Jimma and Haramaya University for this program.

We provide functional, leadership and technical trainings both locally and internationally. We also send key staff on international benchmarking visits to other breweries. In addition, there are on-goingtrainings on safety & health, responsible consumption and Code of Business Conduct. HEIENEKEN has online learning academies geared towards all disciplines available for all staff across the globe.

How do you retain Talents? Do you have any special program?

In addition to offering a competitive remuneration package, we offer a wide range of benefits to include free treatment at brewery clinics, medical insurance, transportation, bonus pay-outs, loan options, local and international training opportunities, career prospects to name a few.

What would be your recommendations to other EU businesses investing/willing to invest in Ethiopia? Any other important messages you are willing to share with our Members.

In 2013 HEINEKEN signed a 4 year Public Private Partnership called CREATE (Community Revenue Enhancement Through Agricultural Technology Extension), in partnership with the Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA) and Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR), aimed at improving quality and quantity of malt barley grown in Ethiopia as well as improved access to markets for farmers. This has already enabled HEINEKEN to support local smallholder farmers to supply our breweries and drive this desired increase in local sourcing.  After only two years in operation, the CREATE Project is already supporting more than 6,000 farmers, and by 2017, this will grow to 20,000 farmers.

face booklinkedin