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ETHIOPIA: Russian Business to Showcase Goods at Addis Ababa Fair

Kester Kenn Klomegah

MOSCOW, Feb 25 2009 (IPS) - When the 13th Addis Ababa International Trade Fair officially opens tomorrow, the Russian trade delegation hopes to make its presence felt with participating industrial companies and business enterprises.

About 50 Russian industry and trade representatives are attending the trade fair, which ends on Mar 3, where they will display their products.

They are also aiming to hold fresh business talks and review existing relations with Ethiopian counterparts that could further boost trade and economic cooperation, a senior diplomat at Ethiopia’s embassy in Moscow, Amha Hailegeorgis, told IPS.

The delegation is due to first meet with Ethiopia’s trade and industry minister, Girma Biru, for discussions with Ethiopian investors who are particularly interested in exporting various traditional goods such as leather products, coffee and floriculture.

The Russian business representatives from large companies will brief the gathering on potential opportunities for trade and investment in Russia.

Hailegeorgis believes that Ethiopia, with an annual average growth rate of about 11 percent over the past four years and allowances for preferential market access, holds advantages to prospective foreign businesspeople.

The two countries have had long-standing ties in the spheres of culture, economy and politics. Trade ties between the two countries have steadily been improving since the official launching of their joint economic and trade commission in November 1999.

But there’s a lot of room for more growth. Ethiopia exported goods were worth a mere seven million dollars to Russia in 2006 while imported goods were valued at 72 million dollars that year.

The imports and exports baskets are typical for an African state. Ethiopia’s main exports to Russia were flowers, coffee and oil seeds while imports from Russia included chemicals, fertiliser and machinery.

Russian investors are interested in the sectors of agriculture, industry, mining, energy and construction as well as telecommunications.

Russia’s deputy foreign minister Alexander Saltanov has reiterated that despite the global recession and other negative trends, work on strengthening the traditionally friendly relations with African continent has remained one of the important components of Russian foreign policy.

He added that Russia is interested in developing multi-sided cooperation with African countries that are considered as promising partners.

Despite the unfavorable tendencies linked to the global economic and financial crisis, purposeful work was conducted to reinvigorate economic and trade cooperation with some African countries whose current level do not yet match their considerable potential, Saltanov explained.

He said that ‘‘great significance was attached to raising the effectiveness of the activities of bilateral intergovernmental commissions so as to promote direct economic ties, and especially in the small and medium-sized business.’’

Saltanov indicated that assistance to the expansion of Russian business is a major priority.

Russia will continue providing the necessary politico-diplomatic follow-up for the African activities of such leading Russian companies as Alrosa, Gazprom, Lukoil, Rusal, Renova, Gammakhim, Technopromexport and VEB and VTB banks, which are engaged in large-scale investment projects on the continent.

‘‘Positive dynamics are evident in the development of Russian-African cooperation in the minerals and raw materials, infrastructure, energy and other spheres. This has helped to create conditions in the region for the successful tackling of the socio-economic problems facing it,’’ he argued.

Among Russia’s principal partners are Angola, Guinea, Libya, Namibia, Nigeria, Ethiopia and South Africa.

Gashaw Abate, a senior manager at the Addis Ababa Chamber of Commerce, said that the basic aim of the trade exhibition is to bring different business actors to one venue to exchange business information. Business deals could result from this.

Abate told IPS in an interview that, ‘‘at this moment we are eager to see the Russian delegation because we understand that their arrival will further strengthen Ethiopian-Russian relations and important results could follow. As is well known, the Ethiopian-Russian relationship is one of the oldest and closest in African history’’.

But, what is unique this time, Abate explained further, is the fact that many Russian business organisations will come to Ethiopia to participate in the trade fair to showcase what the Russian federation could provide the world at large and the Ethiopian market, more specifically.

About 17 business companies will be hosted in a single booth exhibiting their respective goods and services. Another five Russian companies will present papers on their respective business operations, he added.

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