|Gulen Turkish School in West. Shewa, Ethiopia NOTE: the ever present Turkish flag|
along with the Ethiopian flag at the front of the school
14 March 2011
Around 200 Turkish business people from different sectors attended the Ethio-Turkish Business Forum, held at the Sheraton Addis, on Wednesday, March 9, 2011, with the aim of making business deals in Ethiopia.
The meeting brought together a heavyweight business delegation from Turkey and a sizeable delegation from both the Ethiopian (ECCSA) and the Addis Abeba chambers of commerce and sectoral associations (AACCSA).
It was organised by the Turkish Exporter's Assembly, the Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists of Turkey, and the Under Secretariat of the Ministry of Foreign Trade (MoFT) for Turkey in coordination with the ECCSA and AACCSA.
Members of the delegation, drawn from such diverse sectors as construction, textiles, tourism, agriculture, as well as minerals and metallurgy, were especially interested in textile and agriculture joint ventures (JVs) with Ethiopian partners, according to Nevzat Timurtas, a management consultant with Helavet Gida San Ve Tic AS, a consultancy agency.
"Turkish business people are most commonly known in Ethiopia for their schools [there are four Ethio-Turkish schools] and textile businesses," he told Fortune.
These textile factories are Ayka Addis Textile Factory and Shaheen Factory, which is under construction.
"However, there are large Turkish companies which could invest in manufacturing and other areas," Nevzat told Fortune. "Due to their unfamiliarity with local laws, they may start by merely selling their products."
A few internationally well-known construction companies accompanied the business delegation.
The number of Turkish business people operating in Ethiopia has grown by 225, since 2007, according to Rizanur Meral, chairman of the Federation of Businesspeople and Industrialists of Turkey (TUSKON), who spoke on the occasion during what was his third trip to Ethiopia.
"A total of 50pc of Turkey's 230 billion dollar exports goes to Europe, which says a lot about the necessity to find alternative markets for exports," he said.
The Turkish Export-Import (Exim) Bank has made 100 million dollars available for Turkish businesses to set up projects in Ethiopia.
The country hoped to establish a free trade agreement with Ethiopia in the future, Zafer Caglayan, minister MoFT for Turkey and the highest profile delegate, said during the meeting.
His hope of expanding business ties was echoed by Sufian Ahmed, minister of Finance and Economic Development (MoFED) for Ethiopia.
"Turkish companies could play a big part in the government's effort to develop infrastructure, as set out in the GTP. I believe Turkey will be the biggest investor in a couple of years," he said. "The recent soft loan from the Exim Bank, while offering big support for investors, is not big enough and should be expanded."
Joint commission meetings have been held between the two countries, since 2000. In 2005, Recep Tayep Erdogan, Turkish Prime Minister, visited Ethiopia, and in 2007, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi visited Turkey.
"Ethio-Turkish relations have existed for centuries but the relationship only started being fruitful over the past decade," he said. "However, the potential trade ties between the two countries are not sufficiently developed."
In a bid to improve these ties, a series of face-to-face meetings between Ethiopian and Turkish businesspeople took place after a break for lunch to discuss potential business arrangements.
Such a meeting took place between the head of Ambassador Garment and Trade Plc and Mustafa Tarik Bozbey, chairman of Mediterranean Clothing and Ready Wear Garments Exporters Union.
"We talked about the possibility of transferring technology from their textile and garment factories, and establishing a JV factory in Ethiopia," Teshome Tafere, general manager of Ambassador, told Fortune. "They undertook to invite us to their Istanbul headquarters and factories to discuss the matter more."
Ambassador has started selling its garments in limited amounts in neighbouring countries, he said. He hoped his company's meeting with the Turkish group would lead to a concrete business partnership, which would help his company attain a foothold in the export market in the region and beyond, Teshome said.
Another attendee who, unlike most of his Turkish counterparts, has an established business in Ethiopia was Mehmet Yildrim, general manager of Pamukkale Turkish Restaurant and Café, located on Bole Road near 2000 Habesha Restaurant.
"I started my business with an investment capital of 100,000 dollars three years ago because Turkish Airlines had started direct flights from Istanbul to Addis Abeba and the number of Turkish investors were increasing," he told Fortune.
While he appreciated the stable and safe environment of Ethiopia, its cultural similarity to Turkey, and its accommodating people, he faced difficulties with banks, especially when trying to send money abroad, he claimed. The paperwork to import machinery and equipment needs to be processed by the Ethiopian Revenues and Customs Authority (ERCA) faster, he said.
Yildrim is studying the sesame and coffee market as well as leather garment sectors in order to enter into imports and exports, but hoped the mentioned difficulties would be solved by then, he said.
By ELIAS GEBRESELASSIE