India-Ethiopia Journey so far and the way forward

  • May 15, 2017

If there is a country in Africa with which India has had the most productive relationships, it is Ethiopia that finds itself placed in a rapidly growing part of the continent. H.E. Dr. Negeri Lencho, the Minister of Communication Affairs of Ethiopia is a man who knows India well, and Ethiopia even better. He was invited by the Indian Council of World Affairs on March 20, 2017, to deliver a lecture on “India-Ethiopia Relations – the journey so far and the way forward.” There, not only did he share his insights on the topic, but also expressed his gratitude to the Indian education system for playing a significant role in preparing the future world leaders.

Here are excerpts of his lecture: “It is a great honour for me to be here because India is my second home country. Hence, I would like to thank you for inviting me to this event. Before I delve into the topic, allow me to express my personal gratitude to India. “I completed my Masters of Arts in Media and Communication, did my PhD in journalism and Mass Communication studies here. I also obtained my postgraduate diploma in United Nations Studies and International Understanding in India – a great country, which truly educates leaders, professors, doctors, scientists, IT professionals not only for India, but also for the whole world, including Ethiopia and many other African countries. It is for me truly an ‘Incredible India’.

“After completing my studies, I went back to my native country and joined the Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia’s oldest and biggest University. And now, I am serving as the Minister of Communications of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. Why am I telling you all this? It is because I can’t help but feel proud as an Indian educated mind. Thank you India, thank you all!

Following a trade agreement between the Government of India and that of Ethiopia on March 6, 1997 in New Delhi, the trade relation between the two have been growing tremendously. India remains the most important source of imports for Ethiopia, after China and Saudi Arabia.

“Thousands of my people have similarly benefitted from your education programmes. They have the same feeling as I do. Most of us have obtained the opportunity through your generous schemes and different scholarships. “Coming to the topic, “India-Ethiopia Relations: the journey so far and the way forward.” Ethiopia and India have had long standing economic and commercial relations that can be traced back to 2000 years in history. That was a time when Indian traders used to trade silk and spices for gold and ivory.”

Inclining on the economic angle

He added, “In more recent years, the economic dimension of the bilateral relations has become outstanding with the prevalence of investor-friendly policies in Ethiopia and India. In fact, India’s first investment was set up in Ethiopia by the Birlas in 1958, when the two Governments started a textile company as a joint venture. Today, India is one of the most sought after foreign investors in Ethiopia.” Mr. Lencho further explained, “Indian companies have invested in various sectors, like agriculture, floriculture, engineering, plastics, manufacturing, cotton and textiles, water management, consultancy, education, Information and Communication Technology, pharmaceuticals and healthcare. “About 55% of Indian investment was in the manufacturing sector followed by agriculture. In the manufacturing sector, more and more Indians are engaging in the production of garment and textile, leather and leather products, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, paper and printing. In the agriculture sector, a large number of Indian companies are engaged in the production of cotton, horticulture, vericulture, biofuel, soyabeen, edible oil and dairy farms. “Following a trade agreement between the Government of India and that of Ethiopia on March 6, 1997 in New Delhi, the trade relation between the two have been growing tremendously. India remains the most important source of imports for Ethiopia, after China and Saudi Arabia.” “The exports from India mainly include semi-finished iron and steel products, drugs and pharmaceuticals, machinery and instruments. Major imports by India from Ethiopia were pulses, precious and semi-precious stones, vegetables and seeds, leather and spices. The Indian economic assistance with sanctioned lines of credit was more than one billion USD for vital projects such as rural electrification, sugar industry and railways.” “Ethiopia is the largest recipient of long-term and seasonal credit from India in Africa.”

Capacity-building sector; an important manifestation

“The Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) provides 50 scholarships to Ethiopia every year. Thousands of Ethiopians have become beneficiaries of post-graduate and PhD studies, including myself. Currently, about 800 Ethiopian students are pursuing their post-graduate and doctrine studies in various Indian Universities.” “Many students have also benefitted from the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Programme which was started in 1969. The number of training slots offered by Indians rose from 25 in the year 2007-2008, to 220 in the year 2015-16. In the media and communication sector, which I am currently running, India has been offering highly invaluable affordable short-term training courses for English language, IT, Journalism and Communication schemes. I hope this support will be further strengthened in the future.”

“Ethiopia has been recruiting qualified teachers from India every year since 1948, when the two countries established ties. Ethiopia was the first country from Africa to open its Embassy in India. “It was Indian professors and teachers, who came to Ethiopia to teach in elementary and secondary schools, even in the remotest part of the country. When the Ethiopian Government began expanding its higher education, at that time we had only two universities. Today, we have more than 30 Government-run universities, about four private universities and hundreds of private colleges. “Thus, India has put its indelible mark on the lives of Ethiopians in the past and the present.”

Academic collaboration

“The other area is academic collaboration between the Indian and Ethiopian higher learning institutions. Linkages have also being established between the Addis Ababa University and the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi. Now both India and Ethiopia are directly linked with e-education. Other contributions in the capacity-building sector include establishment of a vocational training incubation centre, research institute and training of rural women. “India’s contribution to Ethiopia’s development encompasses a wide range of areas from technological and skill transfer to infrastructure development, from trade and investment to financial support and cultural development. “Ethiopia is a multi-ethnic, multi-linguistics and a religiously diversified country like India. The relationship between India and Ethiopia is characterised by closed cultural affinity, economic complementarity and cordial political ties – a multi-sectorial collaboration as expressed in capacity-building, investment, trade and technology transfer. “Ethiopia is now one of the fastest growing economies on the world. This progress would have been difficult, if not impossible, without the cooperation of friendly countries like India.

Ethiopia is a multi-ethnic, multi-linguistics and a religiously diversified country like India. The relationship between India and Ethiopia is characterised by closed cultural affinity, economic complementarity and cordial political ties – a multi-sectorial collaboration as expressed in capacity-building, investment, trade and technology transfer.

“With the modernisation of industries and a fast economic growth, India would continue to play a significant role in the political and economic aspect of the world. It has actually been viewed by many as a role-model of development in agriculture, rural development, education, information technology, healthcare and small-scale industries. “With a bright future ahead, India would continue to be Ethiopia’s important partner in development. As our former Prime Minister H.E. Mr. Meles Zenawi had said that India has been remarkably generous in offering its support to Ethiopia, even before it lifted its own people completely out of poverty. It is my firm belief that the historical and mutually beneficial relationship, sustained between the two friendly countries, will be strengthened in more dimensions in the future.”

Interaction between TOA and H.E. Dr. Negeri Lencho

What would you say about the impact of Indian education on Ethiopia?

The impact of Indian education is evident — India has been training leaders like me. I had been teaching the students at the Undergraduate level, Masters level, and at the PhD level and giving short-term training to diplomats and practitioners. India has educated thousands like me, who are now serving in the new government of His Excellency Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. I want to list one of the many Indian graduates – H.E. Mr. Tagese Chafo, who is the Minister of Public Service and Human Resource Development. I had mentioned that we used to have only two universities, some 15-20 years ago. Now we have about 30 functioning universities, and most of their presidents and professors have graduated from India. We can see the impact, in the political as well as academic dimensions. I am reminded of a former high school classmate, who studied his specialty here in India in cardiology, and is now working in a well-known hospital. Hence, there are a number of success stories about the Indian education system that we are proud of. In the future, one of the activities of our diplomats would be communicating what India did, not only for Ethiopia, but the whole of Africa.

In your opinion, what is the best means of communication to bridge the gap between the government and the citizens to ensure maximum participation of the people?

In Ethiopia, radio is the most popular means of communication because more than 80% of Ethiopian population resides in rural areas. However, gradually, the rural centres are now becoming urban. For example, you could not drive into my village in a car, about twenty years ago. Now it is possible to do that because there is infrastructure. Today, internet penetration is not that high, but after some years it will be. The Ethiopian telecommunications department is working to expand that. Investing in education in rural areas means the children and the youth would be propelled to use information because they would want to know. We may need to work with countries like India, because I know that there is a lot that we can learn from India in expanding Internet-access for the multidimensional development of our economy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *