ABOVE: Fitsum Arega, Ethiopia’s Ambassador to the United States (left) and National Newspaper Publishers Association president and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr.
With archaeological findings that date back to around 980 BCE, Ethiopia sits along the easternmost peninsula in Africa.
Not only does the culturally rich nation count as Africa’s oldest country, but some believe it’s the oldest in the world.
With a population of 112 million – roughly 70 percent of whom are 30 and under – Ethiopia has never suffered under colonization.
Moreover, unlike most others on the continent, Ethiopia has beaten back all attempts by would-be colonizers.
That and the many current reforms has Fitsum Arega, the Ethiopian Ambassador to the United States, beaming confidently with expectations about the future of his nation.
“There is economic reform, vast investment opportunities in agriculture, manufacturing, and energy,” Ambassador Arega told the Black Press during a meeting at the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington, D.C.
“Ethiopia is an ancient country that takes care of its tradition and culture,” the Ambassador remarked.
“We have a youthful population, and that is the force for transformation.”
Ambassador Arega continued:
“We want to engage more in manufacturing which requires labor and skill. Ethiopia has vast opportunities for textile and apparel manufacturing along the value chain, and we have the capacity to expand cotton production; we have power that is all generated from green energy.”
“Winemaking is good because of our soil and because in the daytime it is hot and at nighttime, it is very cold. So that is good for fermentation, so as you see, we are coming up with so many opportunities.”
Ambassador Arega said Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who just won another five-year term after a landslide election victory, have made reform their mission.
“The election was the first of its kind in terms of free and fairness,” the Ambassador stated.
He said with the expansion of educational opportunities, Ethiopia is poised to launch a large skilled labor pool to meet the demands of a diversified economy.
Among Ethiopia’s priorities are agriculture, manufacturing, energy, ICT, mining and tourism among others, the Ambassador noted.
“We have a home-grown economy reform program where we are enabling the private sector to play more of a role. In the past, the public sector played a big role.”
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Ambassador Arega noted that Ethiopia had invested heavily in infrastructure and built the fastest electric railway over rugged terrain.
“We want to build on democracy,” Ambassador Arega declared, noting that everyone is proud that the African Union continues to headquarter in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
The Ambassador, who twice met with NNPA President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., said the Black Press of America must help tell Ethiopia’s story of reform and prosperity.
But there have been some disappointments.
“I went to Congress to discuss the GERD issue, and one of the congressmen opened a New York Times article [quoting just one farmer in Egypt], who complained about what we are doing,” Ambassador Arega demurred.
“We’ve been sending many Op-ed pieces, press releases and other statements to the mainstream press to ensure a balanced perspective, but so far most of the stories have been one-sided.”
Dr. Chavis announced, “I am so very pleased to state on-the-record that the Black Press of America via the NNPA is now in the process of establishing a strategic media partnership between the NNPA and the Ethiopian Press.
“Our two trade associations will work together henceforth on economic sustainability interests, international media relations in print, digital and social media, and on sponsoring mutual trade delegations between the United States and Ethiopia with specific focus on Black-owned businesses in America and in Ethiopia.
“This will be another answer to the centuries-long prayers of all people of African descent for global unity, progress and empowerment.”
In 2011, Ethiopia announced to build a hydroelectric dam on its Abbay River, known to outsiders as the Blue Nile or Nile River.
The dam was named the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) because it was designed to bring about the economic renewal of Ethiopia, Ambassador Arega told NNPA Newswire.
In an op-ed, he wrote that the GERD would be the largest hydropower dam in Africa.
When completed, it is expected to generate more than 5,000 MW installed power generation capacity and will have more than two times the capacity of Hoover Dam.
The total capacity of the reservoir is 74 billion cubic meters to be filled over several years. It will cost nearly $5 billion to complete the dam, Ambassador Arega continued.
The GERD has now reached 81 percent completion, including 98.5 percent of civil, 55 percent electromechanical, and 55.3 percent of the hydroelectric structure.
“Ethiopia generates 85 percent of the Nile River flow, but colonial-era and postcolonial agreements on the Nile, to which Ethiopia was not a party, have given Egypt the disproportionate amount of water while giving Sudan a lesser amount,” the Ambassador wrote.
“These agreements gave zero water allocation to Ethiopia. Egypt today wants to keep the old colonial arrangement in place in one form or another.”
According to a 2018 World Bank report, “About 70 percent of the population in Ethiopia live without electricity.”
The GERD aims to provide access to electricity to more than 60 million Ethiopians and provide affordable electricity to the service, industrial and agricultural sectors.
“It also aligns with Ethiopia’s green development ambitions as it represents a sustainable socio-economic project replacing fossil fuels reducing CO2 emissions,” Ambassador Arega continued.
“Therefore, for Ethiopia, building the GERD is not a matter of choice, but an economic and developmental necessity and the way out of poverty for a nation of 112 million people.”