H.E. Genet Teshome has been Consul General of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia in Mumbai since May 2009. Ethiopia is a country of great contrasts – from one of the oldest civilizations in the world to one of the fastest growing economies in East Africa. The responsibilities of the Consulate General include promoting and facilitating Ethiopia’s investment, trade and tourism opportunities, as well as continuing to strengthen Ethiopia’s relationship with India.
Ethiopia has a culture and tradition that dates back over 3000 years. Briefly tell us about historical Ethiopia, as well as the current State.
Ethiopia, the land that was once known as Abyssinia and that was one of the great kingdoms of the ancient world, is old beyond what most people could imagine.
In fact, the 3.5 million-year-old skeleton of “Lucy” or Australopithecus at Hadar, in the Afar Region, the 4.4 million-year-old remains of Australopithecus Remides which is considered to be man’s anthropoid ancestor, and the earliest hand tools of humans unearthed in the Omo Valley make the country the oldest home of mankind on the planet.
Moreover, the country, which has never been colonized, is one of and is perhaps the richest histories on the African continent and has a wealth of castles, palaces, ancient churches, monasteries and mosques as well as unique wild life, bird life and breath taking vistas.
The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia was established under a new Constitution on 21 August 1995. The Constitution provides for a federal system of the State, which is structurally based on the Federal Government, nine autonomous States and two chartered cities (Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa). The States and chartered cities are vested with powers of self-administration. They have also legislative, executive and judicial powers regarding all matters that fall under their respective jurisdictions except those exclusively given by the Constitution to the Federal Government such as national defence, Foreign Affairs, macroeconomic policy and the printing of currency.
Which attractions would you recommend for the first-time visitor in Ethiopia?
Ethiopia is rich in historic heritages, of which eight are UNESCO registered. It is also rich in its flora and fauna; endowed with attractive sceneries; it is a mosaic of different cultures and history. The Ethiopian people are very friendly. It would be enjoyable and memorable for visitors to spend their holidays in Ethiopia.
Regarding attractions, Ethiopia has a lot to offer. To mention a few of them:
· Historic route of Axum, Gondar, Lalibela, Harar and Sof Omar
· National parks with endemic wild animals like Gelada Baboon, Red Fox, Swayne Hart beast and Walya Ibex; different types of Rift Valley birds
· Archeological routes – the cradle of human kind
· Cultural routes to southern and western part of the country
· Adventure tourism – trekking on Bale and Simien Mountains, rafting over Omo river and many others
SAFETY & HOSPITALITY
How safe is Ethiopia for visitors?
Ethiopia is the safest place to visit. People are hospitable, very friendly and respectful. If you are in Ethiopia, you will feel at home. Ethiopia has the biggest economy in East Africa and is also one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Ethiopia has recovered from the instability of the 1980s and today is a regional powerhouse in East Africa in terms of tourism as well as trade opportunities. Even the number of Indian restaurants is increasing in the capital city, Addis Ababa. For vegetarians Ethiopia’s fasting food , can be a substitute, as it is purely vegetarian and plus.
Would food be an issue for the Indian traveller?
There is a growing number of Indian restaurants in Addis Ababa primarily due to the increasing business relations between our countries. Ethiopian food is somehow similar to Indian food with a staple being a large dosa-like pancake called enjera covered with fermented tef, an indegenious grain. All curries and lentils are served on the enjera and everyone eats off the same platter.
Can you explain the significance and process of the Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony?
The Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony is a fusion of Ethiopia’s history, culture and hospitality. The coffee is taken through its full life cycle of preparation in front of you in a ceremonial manner. Coffee is called Bunna by the Ethiopians.
The ceremony starts with a woman, first bringing out the washed coffee beans and roasting them in a coffee roasting pan on small open furnace. From the beginning, the ceremony appeals to all the senses. The woman will be shaking the roasting pan back and forth so the beans do not burn. As the coffee beans start to pop, the preparer takes the pan and walks around the room so the aroma of freshly roasted coffee fills the air.
The roasted coffee is then put in a small household tool called mukecha for the grinding. The mukecha is a heavy wooden bowl where the coffee beans are placed and crushed by another tool called a zenezena which is a wooden or metal stick similar to a pestle and mortar.
The crushed fresh roasted coffee powder then is put in a traditional pot made out of clay called jebena with water and boiled in the small open furnace. Again the boiling coffee aroma fills the room. Once boiled, the coffee is served in small cups called cini.
As you sip your first cup of coffee, you have gone through the full process of watching the coffee beans being washed, roasted, grinded, boiled and finally consumed. The second and third servings of coffee are important enough that each serving has a name; the first serving is called Abol, the second serving is called Thona and the third serving is called Bereka.
How easily accessible is Ethiopia in terms of tourism opportunities?
Ethiopia is now becoming more accessible. The Government is highly investing into the infrastructure development of the country. As a result, the country has been emerging from negligible accesses to road in terms of road network and per head coverage into asphalt and all-weather road network, which links each woreda (district) administration with the States and Federal Government.
In addition, most of the tourist attractions are covered by Ethiopian Airlines domestic network. Ethiopian Airlines flies daily to Addis Ababa from Mumbai, five days a week from New Delhi and also has daily domestic flights to Bahir Dar, Gondar, Lalibela, Axum and Makale.
Therefore, most of Ethiopia’s tourist destinations are accessible by road and air transport. Visa can be obtained from Ethiopian Missions in India, including Mumbai. Tourist Visa on arrival is also available at Bole International Airport for nationals of 36 countries, including nationals of India.
Which is the best time of the year to visit the country?
Ethiopia can be visited throughout the year. However, it might be advisable to visit Ethiopia between mid-September and April when the main rainy season gets over and the countryside is green.
What is the ideal duration of time one should spend in Ethiopia if one were to plan a holiday, especially keeping in the mind the varied experiences that Ethiopia has to offer?
It varies depending on what you are planning to visit. To cover all the attractions at once it will require a number of days and may be months. However, your visit can be tailored by tour operators based on interests and the number of available days for holiday. Expert advice can be sought from Ethiopian tour operators and the Consulate General can facilitate the link.
What about currency?
The local currency is the Birr which is approximately Rs. 4.50 to 1 Birr.
What is the perception of India amongst Ethiopians?
India has got a wide appreciation among the urban people at large. Indian music and Bollywood films are very popular among the young generation. In the Government, India is regarded as a role model, as it is one of the fast growing economies. Ethiopia is also achieving a double digit growth for the last seven years in a row; therefore, cooperation with India would be very important to share experiences and exchange information.
How does your office plan to promote Tourism between Ethiopia and India?
We are using different methods to promote Ethiopia’s tourist attractions. For instance, in collaboration with Ethiopian Airlines, relevant institution and concerned Government Bodies, we organize a familiarization tour for Indian Travel and Tour Companies, photographers and writers. We are also working to establishing a partnership and twinning arrangement between Tour Operators of the two countries. We also encourage Tour Companies of Ethiopia to participate in tourism fairs that are taking place in India. We try to use all possible means and tool to promote Ethiopia as a tourist destination.
Together with collaborators, we will also do publicities through journals and newspapers so as to create awareness in Indian tourism market.
At this juncture, I would like to thank you for featuring Ethiopia in your well positioned magazine, Opportunities Today.
TRADE & INVESTMENT
How has been the bi-lateral relationship between India and Ethiopia?
The political relationship of the two countries has been exemplary. Both countries are supporting each other at international fora. There were a number of visit exchanges at the highest political level.
Regarding trade and business relationship, it goes back centuries. In fact, Ethiopia was the first preferred investment destination for India. The first India’s Foreign Direct Investment was made in Ethiopia in 1959 by Birla Group. This fact is well written by Indian scholars and it is well documented. If you visit the Birla Group’s website it is also posted there.
This relationship was watered down during the military dictator regime and again it is being boosted since the current democratic Government took power. Especially in the last six and seven years the trade volume has tripled and at this time it stands around half a billion USD per annum. Regarding investment, for Indian investors, Ethiopia has emerged as one of the most preferred investment destinations in Africa.
Moreover, Indian investors can benefit from market access, which is extended to Ethiopia by U.S.A., EU, COMESA and other countries. Ethiopia looks towards India as its strategic partner.
Which are the key investment opportunities between the two countries?
Ethiopia has a vast area of land that can be used for agricultural development; it has a number of rivers and running water, which can be used for irrigation. It has untapped potential for industrial development, especially for agro-industry, textile, apparel and leather industries. Ethiopia also has a young and trainable labor force at a reasonable payment. The Government, both at the States and Federal levels, is encouraging and supporting private investment including Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). The investment law is not discriminatory and equally treats both domestic and foreign investors.
There is an incentive package that includes tax holidays, duty free importation of capital goods related with the project, 100 per cent expatriation of profit and capital and many others. Both urban and rural land is made available for investment projects on lease basis at affordable rates.
Are there many investments made by Indian companies in Ethiopia and which are the growth areas of investments for the future?
In 2004/05 India’s Foreign Direct Investment to Ethiopia was only 400 million USD. Nowadays, this figure has been changed drastically. India’s FDI to Ethiopia in terms of the number of projects and the total amount of capital has reached at the forefront with a total number of projects about 500 and registered capital of about USD five billion. This figure is on the increase as this momentum is still continuing.
Regarding areas of investment, Indian investors are mainly into utmost priority sectors of the country, like agriculture and floriculture, agro processing, textile, manufacturing and the like. They are also into consultancy, health and education.
In which areas can expertise be shared between the two states?
India is a knowledge partner of Ethiopia. In the past, for a long time Indian teachers were teaching in junior and high schools and they were sharing their knowledge with young Ethiopians. Currently, many Indian lecturers are carrying out trainings and researches at Ethiopian universities and Higher Learning Institutions.
India’s technology in the agriculture sector, Small and Micro Enterprises (SMEs) and in many other sectors is considered as most appropriate and is subject for knowledge share.
Moreover, the support of Indian Government to African countries in e-government, tele-medicine and tele-education has been facilitating knowledge transfer at higher level between India and the African nations and amongst themselves.
ABOUT THE EXPERT
Which is your favorite holiday destination in Ethiopia and in India?
I love the historical offerings of Ethiopia, as well as the natural landscapes and abundant wildlife. I have visited almost all historic and heritage attractions in Ethiopia, as well as many of the National Parks and the protected Game Reserves.
In India, I had a chance to participate in a heritage walk last year organised by Indian Merchants’ Chamber and Mumbai Heritage Walk, where we became acquainted with Mumbai’s heritage sites. I was also able to see the Elephanta Caves and Sanjay Gandhi National Park on a tour organized by the Government of Maharashtra. It was an excellent experience. India is a very vast and rich country in terms of tourist attractions and culture. I still have a lot to explore.
Indians are exploring Ethiopia from business perspectives. However, Ethiopia is not well explored by Indian leisure tourists. Ethiopia has a lot to offer and you will never regret visiting Ethiopia.
Please visit Ethiopia – a country with 13 months of sunshine – and be seven years younger.
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