(Speaker's notes, may differ from delivered version)
Real pleasure for me to be speaking here today at this impressively well-attended radio communications conference, an event which may bring another UK company into this market. Because over the past four years as British Ambassador, I have seen Ethiopia’s economic potential explode.
That is a great thing for the people for Ethiopia - the country is in the process of undergoing a huge and positive transformation that was inconceivable two decades ago.
And it is also a great opportunity for British business. Ethiopia has the ambitious but I believe realistic aim of becoming a middle income country with zero net carbon growth within the next decade. There is an increasingly attractive business environment (though not without its problem areas – far from it) which include:
A clear and ambitious long term economic plan as set out in the Growth and Transformation Plans I and II;
Cheap and available energy. Ethiopia has more than doubled its energy from 2,000 MW five years ago to over 4,000 MW today, and at around 4 cents per KwH it is the cheapest energy in Africa, less half that of neighbouring Kenya (and with 10’s of 1000’s more MW of generation coming on-stream in the next few years;
Rapidly expanding infrastructure, in terms of road network, construction, railways, IT and communications, on-grid electricity and so on.
A large domestic market (a population of well over 90 million and heading for 150 million);
Emergence of a middle class from almost nowhere, small as yet, but providing a growing market for goods and services.
A cheap, healthier and young workforce - a tenth the price of China; and 70% under the age of 25;
All of this points Ethiopia in the right direction as a partner: it is one of the fastest growing economies in Africa, at 8% of GDP according to the IMF/World Bank (more according to the government of Ethiopia but impressively high in any event), and is forecast to see sustainable growth at this level over the coming years. The IMF ranks Ethiopia as among the five fastest growing economies in the world.
AYRSYS – our host for this event - clearly recognises Ethiopia for the opportunity it is, which is why we are here today.
I hope companies in Ethiopia – many are represented in this room - also recognise what AYRSYS can bring to Ethiopia:
A top class range of products on offer to allow quality communications within and between companies;
Excellent distribution infrastructure, ensuring speedy delivery of products
The latest digital technology, and system and resource facilities;
Strong support and services to ensure speedy and effective trouble shooting
And much more - I’ll leave the detail to the experts!
Before I finish, may I express one final thought. Which is, that the time is right for us all to be ambitious about growing the trading relationship between the UK and Ethiopia.
At the Ethiopian-UK Trade and Investment Forum last month in London, the then-UK Minister for Africa, Grant Shapps, set out his aim of seeing UK trade with Ethiopia double in the next five years. The government of which he is a member gives much more attention to Africa and related prosperity issues (not just development assistance) than has been the case before.
Given Ethiopia’s growth rates, and the UK’s economic stability in spite of broader global economic concerns, I believe there is much we can do to build trade relationships that will be beneficial to both countries.
AIRSYS should be part of that. I’m very glad to see them here today and I hope we can use today’s sessions to build some tangible and lasting connections.
Please talk to my UKTI colleagues here today about how the British Embassy can help you, for example in sourcing goods and services from the UK.