YE the Federal and Regional Presidents, YE the Mayor of Bishoftu, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Just a few years ago, there was comparatively little UK investment in Ethiopia -though it did exist and there are a few very long-term British players in the market. But I am very pleased at the way in which our investment has taken off dramatically from this low base in recent years. This is in a variety of sectors, but food and beverages continues to be one area in which we think the UK has a great deal more to offer to the Ethiopian market.
So I am delighted to be here today taking part in the formal inauguration of the new Ahadukes Food Products factory, which is already into production. This joint investment between UK-based Vasari Investments Group and Ahadu PLC envisages growing the initial US$36m investment into a US$120m project in just a few years.
Vasari is an operationally led investment group focussed on the fast moving consumer goods sector and associated value chain. Led by Vivian Imerman, Vasari has significant experience in both developed and emerging markets with a strong heritage spanning over 30 years throughout the African continent. Ethiopia is now seen as a core market for Vasari and its commitment to the market is highlighted by the existence of two permanent in-country representatives who have a wealth of experience across numerous spheres of the Ethiopian economy.
Vasari’s first local investment was in the famous Dashen Brewery, one of the largest brewers in the country. Together with their local partner TIRET, Vasari are continuing to grow that business and are currently completing a state of the art new brewery at Debre Birhan. I was also privileged to be present at the ground-breaking ceremony for the Debre Birhan site, three years ago.
And they have also invested in Rorank Business – Rorank being a relatively young domestic distilling and blending spirits business based in Chacha. This business too is planning a dramatic expansion programme.
A common theme throughout these investments, including Ahadukes, is for Vasari to work closely with their local Ethiopian partners to grow and expand each business. And I believe they are keen to make other investments in Ethiopia in the future.
The Ahadukes project goes very much with the grain of the Government of Ethiopia’s desire to add value to agricultural production through the establishment of new processing methods and establishments. It will contribute to import substitution and meeting export targets as well as creating large numbers of jobs and transferring technology. I gather the Regional President recently presented Ahadukes with a special reward in recognition of the importance of this investment to the Oromia region. This is great news.
As for all foreign direct investments in Ethiopia, stable operating conditions and consistency of policy making will be essential to the success of this project. The economic potential of the country is enormous, if the business environment is right. We will continue to work with the Ethiopian government – bilaterally and through the European Union – to try to ensure win-win conditions that benefit everyone.
And I would also expect both the federal and the regional government to want to work in tandem in resolving any relevant operational issues that could potentially stifle business and give a wrong signal to those aspiring to come and invest here. We very much share the goal of an economically prosperous Ethiopia.
A British comedienne has divided people into two categories – those who take a biscuit out of the packet and put it back neatly in the cupboard; and those who cannot open a packet without finishing it. I look forward to finishing a packet of Ahadukes’ first biscuits when they hit the market in just a few weeks, possibly washed down with their very fine Dashen beer!