Business From Deutschland

The minister and director aside, the team incorporated business leaders pooled from various sectors in Germany for a daylong official visit to Ethiopia. Before leaving, Neamin Ashenafi of The Reporter sat down with Liebig to discuss various issues regarding Ethio – German business relations and other pertinent matters. Excerpts: The Reporter: You are owner and director of Conjuncta GmbH, a business consultancy and project development company. So could you please talk a little bit about your company?

Stefan Liebig: My main line of business is running a mid-size consultancy and investment company that does some business in Africa. But the capacity with which I am here is as chairman of the German-African Business Association, an organization that represents all German industry players currently doing business in Africa, or that intend to do business here as investors or trade partners.

As the chairman of the German-African Business Association, how do you describe the challenges and the developments in Ethio-German business-to-business relations? I think we do have a number of German industry representatives already working in Ethiopia, and they are successful and doing well. But we now want to make a change and bring a significant number of investors to Ethiopia to partner with local businesses or the government. I have been here three times over the past years to identify the opportunities and areas of interest and I think I also had a very fruitful discussion with the government. So I hope I can come back soon and implement some of these initial project ideas into more tangible activities.

In your three different trips in the past years, what are the potential areas that you have identified for engagement?

We had representatives in the delegation from different sectors such as energy, chemicals, information technology, construction, engineering procurement and construction (EPC,) agriculture, banking and finance. So you see, these are areas that I believe German industries have some strength in. Ethiopian companies as well have some strength in these areas and we should put them together and create something new out of that.

You have had discussions with senior government officials from the energy sector. What were those discussions about?

The delegation was quite impressed to see that there is a clear strategy and plan in place in Ethiopia to develop the energy sector and, obviously, availability of electricity is a key prerequisite for further industrial development. Germany has got a unique knowhow in this sector that it can offer so we would like to share that knowhow by bringing in high tech solutions for hydro, gas pipelines, power plants and so on to help further development of the energy sector here. And we have been discussing a number of opportunities with the ministry that are going to be followed up.

What was the response from the side of the government?

The response was very open. We actually agreed to pursue a number of opportunities that have been discussed. There are a number of companies in the energy sector that are already active in Ethiopia and have been so for the past 15 years. Many of the hydropower plants have been built by German companies, SIEMENS and a number of others are doing business in the energy sector in Ethiopia. So we want to expand this, we have discussed a number of projects, but developing real joint activity out of the project ideas discussed is going to take a few months.

Since you are the chairman of the German-African Business Association, you are familiar with other African nations too. So what makes Ethiopia different from other African nations in terms of business?

Obviously Ethiopia is a very large market. By simply looking at the population size one can see that there is a lot of potential demand for electricity. I also believe that it is a rather stable country and is warm, open and welcoming to foreign investors, especially for my country. So, there are a number of things that I believe German industries, in the long run, cannot afford to ignore in Ethiopia.

What are the major objectives of the business delegation during its visit to Ethiopia?

The major objectives is for senior businessmen and business representatives of some of the well known German brands to get detailed firsthand impressions about the market, gather information regarding opportunities, establish contacts with senior decision makers and identify joint projects that can be discussed and pursued further. So this is the starting point and we hope a few of these project ideas that have been discussed and developed today might have success stories in the midterm.

As it stands right now, is it possible to claim that objectives of the delegations have been achieved?

Yes of course, we had very good discussions. We got a lot of information, we were very much encouraged to come back and to further discuss projects. We are in close contacts with the Ethiopian government as well as private business partners. So I am pretty positive the delegation has been very successful. Now, we need some more time to work on it, to work with our partners to identify in more detail what we are going to do together and then hopefully we can announce some successes in the coming months.

Apart from meeting senior government officials, have you met and discussed with the representatives of the private sector?

I believe we are going to meet some tonight (Monday) and also, when I was here last year we saw a number of business leaders in Ethiopia including those representing large state-owned enterprises. So I believe in total now, we have a pretty good network of all sectors of Ethiopian business.

Are there any specific areas that the business delegation wanted to engage in?

We have a very g industrial sector in Germany and as I have mentioned a few of them were included in the delegation so all of them have come here to discuss tangible projects. No businessman from Germany can afford to spend a day in Ethiopia without developing a business here, be it finance or engineering procurement and construction (EPC,) chemicals, construction, railways or logistics, they are all here and they want to see what they can develop in Ethiopia together with local partners.

How do you describe the business environment in Ethiopia?

I don’t have the experience regarding operational matters in Ethiopia so it is difficult for me to judge but from what I see, I believe it is stable. We might need to look out for some bureaucratic and administrative hurdles when it comes to doing business, but this is something to look into when we are closer to the implementation stages. And then again, what we saw is that there is very g support from the government side to enable German investment and partnership in Ethiopia. We do look forward to further discussions and developments.

What is to be done for the future to strengthen Ethio-German business relationships?

Let us go and have a few success stories of joint businesses and this will attract and convince more people to come and do the same.

Stefan Liebig (Ph.D.) is the Director of the German-African Business Association and this week, Liebig was in town as part of the business delegation led by the country’s foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Source : The Reporter

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