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Embaixada da Etiópia
Brasília, Brasil

January 20, 2017

 A Week in the Horn                             20.1.2017

News in Brief
Ethiopia's humanitarian requirements for 2017 as a new drought threatens….
…and the Indian Ocean Dipole also endangers Somalia and Kenya
Africa in 2017: Ten Countries to Watch, Six Themes to Emphasize
Africa-France Summit on Partnership, Peace and Emergence
United States announces its intention to lift economic sanctions on Sudan
Somalia: the presidential election and presidential priorities
Ethiopia-Djibouti plans to unlock pan-African commercial potential
Gambella Diaspora interest in investment in Gambella Regional State

News in Brief

Africa and the African Union
The 28th African Union Summit starts next week.  The 33rd Ordinary Session of the Permanent Representatives Committee will be held from Sunday (January 22) to Tuesday (January 24). This is followed by the 30th Session of the Executive Council on January 25-27. Meetings of the African Peer Review Mechanism and the Committee of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change and a session of the Peace and Security Council at Heads of State and Government level will be held towards the end of the week. The Heads of State and Government will hold a retreat on Sunday (January 29) before the  28th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Heads of State and Government of takes place on Monday and Tuesday (January 30 and 31.) The theme of the Summit is: "Harnessing Demographic Dividend through investments in the Youth"
AU Commissioner for Peace and Security, Smail Chergui, visited Burundi this week to discuss Burundi's threat to withdraw its 5,500 peacekeepers from AMISOM over unpaid salaries. On Thursday, he told a press conference that "We have signed a new MoU for the AU to transfer salaries of Burundian troops of AMISOM to the benefit of the Burundian National Defense Force." The money will be released "very soon." Ambassador Chergui said the European Union and the Burundi government were satisfied with the arrangement. Ambassador Chergui also visited Mpanda cemetery where he paid tribute to peacekeepers who died serving in AMISOM.


Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn, in Davos for the 47th World Economic Forum, met with Swiss President, Doris Leuthard. They exchanged views on bilateral business and investment ties between Ethiopia and Switzerland and on Ethio-EU cooperation. The Prime Minister briefed the President on Ethiopia's role in the development of renewable energy and its implementation of sustainable development plans. He called on Swiss investors to take advantage of Ethiopia's favorable investment climate. President Leuthard promised to extend support to Ethiopia's green growth strategy.
The Government of Ethiopia and its humanitarian partners on Tuesday this week (January 17) officially launched the Humanitarian Requirements Document for 2017 looking for US$948 million to help 5.6 million people with emergency food and non-food assistance. Commissioner Mitiku Kassa, Head of the National Disaster Risk Management Commission, said the country faced a new drought, with 5.6 million in need of urgent assistance. (See article)

Foreign Affairs Minister Dr. Workneh Gebeyehu received the UN Secretary General's Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, Nicholas Haysom on Monday (January 16). Discussions covered issues of regional peace and security, particularly the all-inclusive peace process in South Sudan where the two sides agreed to work together to ensure peace and stability.  

Foreign Minister Dr. Workneh met with US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, in Addis Ababa on Thursday (January 19). Ms. Thomas-Greenfield also met with officials of the African Union Commission, as well as with Embassy personnel.

State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mrs. Hirut Zemene met Djibouti's Ambassador to Ethiopia, Ambassador Mohamed Idriss Farah, on Tuesday for discussions on further strengthening the wide range of bilateral ties in infrastructure, trade and people-to-people relations. The State Minister said the two countries were working closely on outstanding/pending issues to further advance their cooperation and praised cooperation in the education sector.

State Minister, Mrs. Hirut Zemene, speaking at the celebration of the 61st anniversary of the National Day of the Sudan at the Hilton Hotel on Monday (January 16), said Ethiopia greatly valued its partnership with the Sudan. She noted that the two countries had common interests in peace and security, realization of strong regional integration and common agendas in the African Union and IGAD as well as other multilateral fora. She referred to eventual unity of Africa and the need to work on common objectives for the building of strong regional integration.

State Minister, Mrs. Hirut held talks with Sudan's Ambassador Gamal Alshaikh Ahmed, Ambassador of the Sudan to Ethiopia and Permanent Representative to the African Union on Tuesday (January 17) to discuss bilateral, regional and international issues. She said the two countries enjoyed close cooperation in economic, social, peace and security, and people-to-people ties, emphasizing a number of significant initiatives underway to further enhance the Ethio-Sudan relations. Ambassador Ahmed stressed that "Sudanese cooperation with Ethiopia at a bilateral level and at the AU is a number one priority".

State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Aklilu Hailemichael, led the Ethiopian delegation to the 27th Africa-France Summit, co-organized by Mali and France, last week (January 13-14) in Bamako the capital of Mali. The Summit was held under the theme of Partnership, Peace and Emergence. (See article)

Members of the Gambella Diaspora Association, based in the United States, made an innovative Diaspora engagement trip to Gambella last month. The visit to the Gambella Regional State was supported by the Gambella government and aimed to contribute to the development of a more secure, equitable, and prosperous region. (See article)

Ethiopian Airlines announced this week that it will launch seven new destinations in the period February to June this year with services to Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe), Antananarivo (Madagascar), Conakry (Guinea), Oslo (Norway), Chengdu (China), Jakarta (Indonesia) and Singapore (Singapore). This will bring the number of its international destinations around the world to 98. Last year, Ethiopian launched new flights to Moroni (Comoros), Windhoek (Namibia) and Newark (United States) as well as three cities in Ethiopia: Hawassa, Kebridahar and Dembi Dolo.  CEO Ethiopian Airlines, Tewolde Gebremariam, said Ethiopian aimed to reach 120 international destinations worldwide by 2025.

China Engineering Corporation signed an agreement with Yekatit Pulp and Paper on Tuesday  (January 17) to construct the biggest Pulp and Paper Mill in Ethiopia. The project, which is expected to start operation by mid-2019, is expected to create 9,000 direct and indirect jobs. An Indian company, C2C Paper Projects LLC, is supervising the supervision of the project's engineering, procurement, installation and commissioning works.

The ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Party and 23 opposition parties opened a dialogue on Wednesday (January 18). The meeting, the first in a series, came a week after Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn promised to engage with opposition parties that "chose the peaceful path".


President Ismail Omer Guelleh attended the opening of the Silkroad International Bank in Djibouti on Wednesday (January 18).  It is the first Chinese-funded enterprise to obtain a banking license in Africa and the first joint venture bank in Djibouti. Minister of Finance, Ilyas Moussa Dawaleh, said the opening of the bank was the latest example of China's long-term support for infrastructure development in Djibouti. The bank's deputy chairman, Luo Feng, said the Bank aimed to strengthen economic ties between China and Djibouti, and work to "facilitate the ‘Belt and Road' initiative and support Djibouti to become a financial and trade hub of the entire Eastern Africa," as well as encourage financial sector development in Djibouti and Africa.

President Ismail Omar Guelleh formally launched the construction of Africa's largest free trade zone on Monday (January 16). The agreement to build the 48 sq. km. free trade zone was signed last March with China's Dalian Port Corporation Limited. It is part of China's infrastructure initiatives stretching across 60 countries, the "One Belt, One Road" initiative. Aboubaker Omar Hadi, chairman of the Djibouti Ports and Free Zone Authority said Djibouti aims to become a gateway not only to Ethiopia but to South Sudan, Somalia and the Great Lakes region. Djibouti Ports and Free Zone Authority will operate the zone in a joint venture with China Merchants Holdings under an agreement for the zone to handle $7 billion in trade within two years. Djibouti will also create a unified customs system with China, establish a transit trade centre and set up a currency clearing system.


The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has called on the Eritrean government to release Abune Antonios, allow him to return to his position as Patriarch, and cease its interference in the Eritrean Orthodox Church. Friday (January 20) marks the 11th anniversary of the government's removal of Abune Antonios as the rightful Patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Church. The Patriarch has been detained since 2007, after refusing government demands to excommunicate people. He remains under house arrest and denied medical care despite severe heath concerns. Last year the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea accused the Eritrean authorities of committing "crimes against humanity".

Four people died and nearly 180 are missing, presumed dead, after another migrant ship sank in the Mediterranean at the weekend. Four survivors were rescued on Saturday (January 14) only 30 miles from the Libyan coast. Despite the dangerous mid-winter crossing from Libya, there has been no sign of a slowdown in departures with some 2,300 migrants already registered in Italy since January 1st. Last year 181,000 people were registered at Italian ports and the UNHCR recorded more than 5,000 deaths on all routes across the Mediterranean.


Elections for Somalia's Lower House of Parliament, the House of the People, concluded this week, and the last Senate seats should also be decided shortly. The election for Speaker of the Upper House will take place on Sunday (22 January). This opens the way for the Presidential election by members of the two houses of Parliament. (See article)

President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud on Wednesday (January 18) received the credentials of Dr Mohamed Abdi-kani Al-Khayat, Saudi Arabia's first ambassador to Somalia since the 1990s. They discussed ways to strengthen ties and the Ambassador said that Saudi-Arabia would support building up the Somali Army and establishing rehabilitation centers for defected militias.

The United Nations' humanitarian coordinator in Somalia, Peter de Clercq, warned on Tuesday (January 17) of "a significant risk of further deterioration to famine". He appealed for $864 million for 3.9 million Somalis in need. Both of Somalia's 2016 rainy seasons were below average and the April to June 2017 Gu rains are predicted to be poor. (See article)

A high-level German delegation led Germany's Ambassador to Somalia, Jutta Frasch, arrived in Kismayo on Wednesday (January 18) and held talks with Jubaland President Ahmed Mohamed Islan on refugees and IDP affairs. Ambassador Frasch pledged assistance to improving the capacity of security agencies and for rehabilitation centers for Al-Shabaab deserters.  

The political parties in Somaliland have agreed to delay the presidential poll scheduled for March for six months because of the worsening drought conditions. The ruling Kulmiye party together with the opposition UCID and Waddani parties released a joint statement on Tuesday (January 17). The low rains and extreme climate conditions have affected hundreds of families and caused the death of many livestock.

South Sudan

UNMISS issued a statement on Sunday (January 15) to confirm discussions in preparation for the arrival of the Regional Protection Force continued with the Transitional Government of National Unity over "the various modalities for the RPF including where they will be deployed in Juba." This followed media reports suggesting the Government had changed its position on the deployment of the Force. The statement noted the deployment of the Regional Protection Force had been reaffirmed by the Security Council in Resolution 2327, renewing UNMISS for another year. It also said the Transitional Government of National Unity had confirmed its "unconditional" consent to the deployment of the Regional Protection Force to the Security Council in November.

A new report released by the UN on Tuesday this week (January 17) reiterates the grave human rights violations and abuses committed in Juba in July 2016. It says that six months after the violence there remains widespread impunity as violations continue. The report, quoting UNMISS and the UN Human Rights Office, says testimonies from victims show most cases of sexual violence were committed by South Sudan army and police officers. The report calls for accountability and justice for all and urges the Transitional Government to take steps to support establishment and operation of the Hybrid Court by the African Union.

US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, visited Juba on Wednesday (January 18) and held talks with senior government officials on issues of mutual concern.


The US Government announced on Friday last week (January 13) that it would lift a 20-year-old trade embargo against Sudan, unfreeze assets and remove financial sanctions. The decision was a response to what President Obama called "positive actions" by the government of Sudan.(See article)

Ambassador Donald Booth, outgoing U.S. Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, on Wednesday (January 18) criticized the refusal of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) to allow USAID to transport humanitarian medical assistance to civilians in rebel held areas after inspection by the Sudanese authorities. The government agreed; the SPLM-N did not. This has prevented the signing of humanitarian and cessation of hostilities agreements between the government and the rebel group in the peace process mediated by the African Union High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP). Ambassador Booth said some Sudanese opposition leaders, especially those with guns, were "more than willing to ignore the interests and well-being of ordinary civilians, in favor of their own political ambitions."


Ethiopia's humanitarian requirements for 2017 as a new drought threatens….

The Government of Ethiopia and its humanitarian partners on Tuesday this week (January 17) officially launched the Humanitarian Requirements Document (HRD) for 2017 looking for US$948 million to help 5.6 million people with emergency food and non-food assistance. Commissioner Mitiku Kassa, Head of the National Disaster Risk Management Commission, said: "Last year the Government of Ethiopia, with the support of international donors and humanitarian partners, was able to mount the biggest drought response operation in global history. Today we need that partnership once again as we face a new drought, with 5.6 million in need of urgent assistance". The Commissioner said the government has already committed US$47.35 million as a first installment for the 2017 Humanitarian Requirements Document. Last year the government bought and distributed more than 627,000 metric tons of wheat to affected areas and built up its reserve again to more than 450,000 metric tons. The 2017 Humanitarian Requirements Document presents prioritized plans in water and sanitation (WASH), agriculture, relief food, nutrition, health, education, protection, and shelter and non-food items in the affected areas. Out of the $948 million sought for the 2017 response, $598 million is targeted for relief food, $105 million for nutrition, and $86 million for WASH needs.

The UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator,  Ms. Ahunna Eziakonwa-Onochie said: "The needs presented in the HRD for 2017 have been established through a robust, Government- led multiagency meher needs assessment, which took place over three weeks in November and December 2016." Some 230 representatives from the Government, UN, NGOs and donors visited affected communities across the country and the assessment concluded that some 5.6 million people will be in need of assistance in the course of 2017. Ms Eziakonwa-Onochie said: "Humanitarian partners stand ready to support the Government in addressing the needs of those Ethiopians affected by this new drought. To do this we count on urgent support from the international community to help us to again save lives and protect Ethiopia's impressive development gains." She added: "If well resourced, the 2017 Humanitarian Requirements Document will ensure a well-coordinated, timely and prioritized humanitarian response."

With the country still facing major residual needs from last year's El Niño-induced drought, the failed rains in southern and eastern parts of the country, caused by the negative Indian Ocean Dipole, another climatic phenomena, have  left 5.6 million people in urgent need of assistance The areas affected by the El Niño were largely in northern and western areas of the country but the new drought is emerging in southern and southeastern pastoral areas including Oromia, Somali and Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples' Region after poor, delayed and erratic rains curbed pasture and water availability. UNOCHA said a strong aid response to last year's El Nino-linked drought had almost halved the number of Ethiopians needing food aid to 5.6 million since mid-2016, but a lack of rains once again threatened the country's ability to feed itself.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization also warned that a new drought across southern Ethiopia might threaten the restoration of food security after the worst El Niño in decades unless urgent efforts are made to shore up vulnerable households in rural areas. The FAO said that the impressive Government-led humanitarian effort had sharply reduced the number of hungry during the worst drought in 50 years. However, the legacy of last year's El Niño along with low rainfall during a critical season pose posed renewed risks now, especially for pastoral communities facing forage shortfalls and water scarcity in southern regions. After having reached 1.3 million farmers and herders affected by the El Niño-induced drought in 2016, the FAO is appealing for aid to reach one million farming, agro-pastoral and pastoral households in 2017, with the aim of protecting gains made last year and preventing vulnerable households from slipping further into food insecurity. The FAO's program seeks in particular to support crop production, implement emergency response and resilience activities in the livestock sector, support livelihoods in refugee-hosting areas and strengthen coordination, information and analysis. Another area of concern is for South Sudan refugees and their hosting communities in Gambella Region, as they are also facing significant challenges to food availability.
Last year, the Government of Ethiopia and partners reached a total of 34.5 million people with access to health and nutrition care, education, safe water, sanitation and hygiene services, and protection support. At least 73 per cent of those reached were children. Safeguarding recent gains requires responding to the livelihood-sustaining needs of fragile households that lost or sold livestock and other assets, often adding to family debt burdens to cope with the worst El Niño in modern history.  The current Humanitarian Requirements Document covers a range of subjects including education, access to water and nutrition. It advises that the bulk of the agriculture sector needs are related to assistance to pastoralists and agro-pastoralists livestock assistance.

…and the Indian Ocean Dipole also threatens Somalia and Kenya

This below average rainfall has also affected Somalia and Kenya. The United Nations' humanitarian coordinator in Somalia, Peter de Clercq, warned on Tuesday (January 17) of "a significant risk of further deterioration to famine", appealing for $864 million for 3.9 million Somalis. Somalia was hit by famine in 2011 with 260,000 people dying. It was caused by drought, conflict and a ban on food aid in the territory held by Al-Shabaab. Mr. de Clercq said half of those who died in 2011 lost their lives before famine was officially declared and "This is a situation that must not be repeated". He said:"The humanitarian situation remains grim for millions of Somalis. We are faced with a slight but steady increase in the number of people in need, and most recently with a significant risk of further deterioration to famine." The worsening drought has left millions of people without food, water or healthcare. Five million Somalis, or more than four out of 10 residents, do not have enough to eat because of poor rains and fighting. Both of Somalia's 2016 rainy seasons were below average, and the April to June 2017 Gu rains are predicted to be poor according to the U.S.-based Famine Early Warning Systems Network.  FEWS said: "Urgent action to ramp up assistance provision and ensure adequate humanitarian access is needed to address rising levels of food insecurity and mitigate the potential for large-scale loss of life." In the south, the regions of Bay and Bakool are most worrying, as poor households there have had little to no harvest, own few livestock and rely on wage labor which declines quickly during severe droughts.

The impact of this latest drought is expected to be most dire in early 2017 among livestock, causing unusually early migrations, excess mortality rates and extreme emaciation. The FAO is calling for an immediate response to support the food security and nutrition of households reliant on animals. Along with the provision of supplementary animal feed, especially along migratory routes, targeted destocking interventions will be implemented to make protein-rich meat available for vulnerable pastoral communities and support livestock prices in local markets. FAO's support will focus largely on communities depending on livestock, but some areas along the Rift Valley, in the northern and eastern highlands, are also facing below-average crop production. They will receive prioritized agricultural support as recovery will take longer than anticipated. FAO reached 1.3 million farmers and herders affected by the El Niño-induced drought last year. It is now aiming to reach one million farming, agro-pastoral and pastoral households in 2017as well as protect the gains made last year and prevent vulnerable households from slipping further into food insecurity. The FAO's program seeks in particular to support crop production, implement emergency response and resilience activities in the livestock sector, support livelihoods in refugee-hosting areas and strengthen coordination, information and analysis.

The FAO said last month that countries in the region will face rises in hunger and further decline of local livelihoods in the coming months, while also dealing with the growing number of refugees. According to FAO nearly 12 million people across Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia face harsh food conditions, and need emergency assistance. Families in the region were also experiencing rising debt, low cereal and seed stocks, and low milk and meat production. Farmers needed urgent support to recover from consecutive lost harvests and to keep breeding livestock healthy and productive at a time that pastures are the driest in years. It said production output in all three countries was grim.

Dominique Burgeon, Director of FAO's Emergency and Rehabilitation Division  said: "We're dealing with a cyclical phenomenon in the Horn of Africa,", stressing that timely support to farming families can significantly boost their ability to withstand the impacts of these droughts and soften the blow to their livelihoods. FAO began allocating funds to Kenya and Somalia at the end of last year to support emergency feeding, repairs of water points, vaccinations for breeding and weak animals, and seeds and tools to plant in the spring season. It was also cooperating with local officials to help countries prepare for emergencies, "especially in those areas where we know natural hazards are recurring," said Mr. Burgeon. He said working with governments to further build up the ability to mitigate future shocks is a smart intervention that can significantly reduce the need for humanitarian and food aid further down the line. He said that Kenya had nearly 1.3 million people that were food insecure, and the number could increase in early 2017 due to drought. Somalia had also seen two poor rainy seasons in 2016, with a 50 per cent below average drop in the Gu cereal harvest last spring. About five million Somalis were food insecure through December 2016, including 1.1 million people in Crisis and Emergency conditions of food insecurity, a 20 per cent increase in just six months. Ethiopia was still recovering from the 2015 El Niño-induced drought, with 5.6 million food insecure people, and millions more depending on livestock herds. FAO and more than 25 non-governmental organizations and agencies had reached 1.5 million households with drought-resistant seeds.


Africa in 2017: Ten Countries to Watch, Six Themes to Emphasize

Dr. Pham, Director of the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council, has recently published an analysis of Africa's economic prospects for the next year. The Atlantic Council based in Washington DC, is a think tank on international affairs founded in 1961, providing a forum for international political, business, and intellectual discussion and comment on security and global economic prosperity with close connections to US government and business sectors.

Dr. Pham noted the continued failure of commodity prices to recover significantly and the global slowdown of economic growth, especially in China and other emerging markets, had made 2016 a difficult year for many African economies, indeed, "the worst year for average economic growth" in the region in over twenty years, according to Ernst and Young. Nigeria slipped into recession and South Africa's economy virtually stalled with no more than a 0.2% growth in the third quarter of the year.   Looking ahead, he suggested those countries, which were diversifying their economies, focusing on energy infrastructure and promoting industrialization, would be best placed to overcome the current challenges and succeed in 2017. Certainly, the countries that relied heavily on the export of one or two resources to drive their economic growth suffered as a result of the emerging market downturn and knock-on effects, both in terms of demand for their commodities and in availability of financing for their major infrastructure and development projects.

Dr. Pham noted that Nigeria, which emerged as the continent's biggest economy three years ago, is currently facing low petroleum prices, as well as decreased production due to attacks by militants in the oil-producing Niger Delta region. Equally, the rest of the economy essentially stagnated, and he noted its low level placing (169 out of 190) of the countries analyzed in the World Bank's Doing Business 2017 Report. Angola and Algeria also suffered from their oil dependency.  South Africa was placed on a downgrade review by Moody's which, Dr. Pham said, would further undermines investor confidence just as the country regained its title as Africa's largest economy from Nigeria. The Democratic Republic of the Congo would continue to struggle economically because its political problems and economic difficulties.

However, if the bigger and resource-dependent economies in Africa were in the doldrums, Dr. Pham said, some of the continent's medium-sized and more diversified economies would make interesting watching in 2017. He singled out Cote d'Ivoire as likely to become Africa's new economic powerhouse with expectations that its growth in 2016 would reach 8.5%. President Alassane Ouattara, an economist and former International Monetary Fund director, was widely credited with sound macroeconomic management and had produced an ambitious National Development Plan, offering major structural reforms to consolidate the private sector as well as to achieve inclusive growth. The IMF most recent economic outlook projects Côte d'Ivoire's real gross domestic product to continue growing at roughly 8% percent annually over the next few years, while the median for Sub-Saharan Africa is estimated at around 4.5%.

Other West African states Dr. Pham singled out include Morocco, which is continuing to forge a role as an African leader on renewable energy, on track to meet more than 40% of its energy needs through renewable energy, mainly solar and wind power by 2020. He noted King Mohammed VI's recent series of official visits across Africa, including recent trips to Rwanda, Ethiopia, and Nigeria, resulting in agreements for multibillion-dollar investments in agriculture, energy, and financial sectors. Senegal had produced an impressive Plan for an Emerging Senegal, and according to Ernst and Young's Africa Attractiveness Index, Senegal, along with Côte d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania, is expected to continue to show high single digit growth in 2017.

Dr. Pham underlined the diversified economic base which meant Kenya had been largely resilient to the emerging markets' downturn of the last year. He said it looked as though East Africa's largest economy had grown at least by the 5.9%t forecast by the World Bank and might even approach the 6.8% growth of the revised IMF prediction in October. One of Kenya's advantages, he noted, has been its membership in the East African Community, which has evolved from a customs union into a common market and has long-term aspirations for a monetary union and a political federation. Kenya this year will, of course, be holding presidential, parliamentary, and local government elections.

Dr. Pham noted Ethiopia would, according to IMF estimates, have been positioned to overtake Kenya as East Africa's largest economy during in the coming year, having posted 10.8% average annual growth over the last decade. This was before the El Nino drought hit the core agricultural sector, and before anti-government protests erupted and the imposition of a State of Emergency. However, he pointed out, investors continued to appear, with some $500 million in new foreign direct investment entering in the last three months of 2016 and an additional $3.5 billion was being processed. Ethiopia's large internal market, it is the 13th most populous country in the world, and low labor costs, made it an attractive location to manufacture fast-moving consumer goods. In addition, Dr. Pham emphasized Ethiopia's investment in hydropower. This included the inauguration last month of Africa's tallest dam, Gilgel Gibe III, which doubled the power output. This not only provides a reliable source of energy, but also offers electricity to the region, including Kenya, which has signed up to buy some of the power produced.   

Overall, Dr. Pham feels that while African countries may continue to face many challenges in 2017, at the same time there are a number of fundamentally positive dynamics to many of the continent's economies, including a growing labor force, increased urbanization, and advances in technology. He points out that as the Republican Party Platform noted: "We recognize Africa's extraordinary potential. Both the United States and our many African allies will become stronger through investment, trade, and promotion of the democratic and free market principles that have brought prosperity around the world. We pledge to be the best partner of all African nations in their pursuit of economic freedom and human rights." The new US Republican administration takes office shortly, and Dr. Pham's conclusion is that it is time to look for ways to fulfil that pledge so that "American business can join their African counterparts in grasping the continent's burgeoning opportunities."

The Brookings Institute has also been looking at Africa in 2017, with its "Foresight Africa: Top Priorities for the Continent in 2017." Dr. Amadou Sy, Director and Senior Fellow, Africa Growth Initiative Global Economy and Development, Brookings Institution, also sees 2017 as holding promise for Africa. Many of the continuing challenges, he says, are those that Africa has weathered before and come out stronger for it. Peaceful transitions, such as in Ghana, provide examples of good governance and respect for the rule of law. Regional actors are creating African solutions to African problems in both the security and infrastructures.  Commodity-reliant countries are looking to diversify while the others are taking advantage of low oil prices.

In this year's "Foresight Africa", Dr. Sy says Brookings scholars and outside experts explore "six overarching themes that provide opportunities for Africa to overcome its obstacles to spur fruitful and inclusive growth." These themes are: the importance of financing for development, and providing the different mechanisms for financing development agendas as well as arguments for increased domestic revenue mobilization and economic diversification; new ways to think about job creation and the adoption of skills development and support for employment; the need for improved technological development; the understanding of smart urban planning as a requirement for successful development with the attached awareness of energy needs, transportation possibilities, pollution potential, safety, informal settlements, and affordability; the need for policies to combat the specific problems of climate change in Africa; and finally, the activities of policymakers to create appropriate regulatory environments for innovation and development as well as for good governance and respect for the rule of law.


Africa-France Summit on Partnership, Peace and Emergence

The 27th Africa-France Summit, co-organized by Mali and France, and co-chaired by the President of Mali, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, and President of France, François Hollande, was held last week (January 13-14) in Bamako the capital of Mali under the theme of Partnership Peace and Emergence. Over thirty Heads of State and Government attended, most from Francophone countries, with almost all African countries represented at different levels. State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Aklilu Hailemichael, led the Ethiopian delegation. The Summit had strong symbolic significance for Mali, demonstrating the country's swift recovery from the security crisis it has been through. Indeed, the Summit applauded Mali's success in combating terrorism alongside its partners in the region and France. The African Heads of State and Government discussed peace and security, terrorism, and migration as well as cyber-crime among other topics, and put in place an African partnership for digital security, to form a framework for sharing expertise in order to help bring about secure technological change on the continent. They also called for an urgent reform in the United Nations, especially the Security Council, which they said ought to enlarge its membership and include African nations among the permanent members to make it more representative of today's world.

The meeting focused on two major issues: peace and security, and economic development. The many challenges and threats to peace and security across Africa headed the discussions during which Heads of State and Government underlined the need to support efforts to prevent and fight all forms of threats to peace and security and stability in the region including terrorism, transnational organized crime, radicalization and violent extremism. They also called for increased action against trafficking networks in order to dry up sources of illicit financing of terrorism and human trafficking. France's support in ensuring peace and security, in particular in the Sahel region, was highly commended. In this connection, the Heads of State and Government also affirmed the need for a comprehensive response in addressing security, governance and development issues to ensure sustainable peace and security in the region. France's President Francois Hollande pledged to increase training for African troops and security forces. The Ethiopian delegation outlined Ethiopia's responses to the challenge of peace and security, terrorism and radicalization in the Horn of Africa, and the role it was playing to help control and check extremist elements  in the region.

The issue of sustainable economic development was the second theme of the summit. Given the extent of the economic social, humanitarian and environment challenges facing the continent, the meeting reaffirmed the need to promote inclusive and diverse economic growth. It also underlined the crucial importance of empowering youth and ensuring their active participation in the development of the continent. The Ethiopian delegation emphasized that Africa should focus on the structural transformation of its economy and expansion of its industrial base. It also stressed the importance of energy and especially of green, sustainable and clean energy. It highlighted the progress being made on the economic front in the structural transformation of the economy, the effort to become a center of excellence in manufacturing, the expansion of industrial parks with particular emphasis on job creation as well as the country's vision of an emission-free economy.

Economic diplomacy also had a major role at the summit, with dozens of French business leaders attending the Summit "to better plan for French investments in Africa in the coming years." In this connection France  and the European Union committed themselves to support African efforts to develop a renewable energy infrastructure on the basis of the creation of 10 gigawatts of energy.


United States announces its intention to lift economic sanctions on Sudan

The Obama administration, in one of its final decisions, announced on Friday last week (January 13) that it would lift a 20-year-old trade embargo against Sudan, unfreeze assets and remove financial sanctions. The decision came in response to what President Barak Obama calls "positive actions" by the government of Sudan. It was a response, it said, to Khartoum's cooperation in fighting Islamic State and other groups, and took into account the ceasing of hostilities in Darfur, improving humanitarian access, ending negative interference in South Sudan, enhancing cooperation on counterterrorism, and ending the threat of the Lord's Resistance Army. The move will, in fact, be delayed by 180 days to see whether Sudan acts further to improve its human rights record and resolve political and military conflicts, including in Darfur. This means the final decision will be in the hands of President-elect Donald Trump and his secretary of state.

The government of Sudan welcomed the decision and a spokesperson for the Sudanese foreign ministry, said: "this step represents a positive and important development for the course of bilateral relations between the United States of America and Sudan, and is the natural result of joint efforts and long and frank discussions". However, some US sanctions tied to Sudan's "state sponsor of terrorism" title remain in place, including a ban on weapons sales.  The Ministry said it hoped further cooperation would allow Sudan to be removed from the U.S. list of states sponsoring terrorism.

Foreign Minister, Ibrahim Ghandour said the potential sanctions relief was the result of six months of secret meetings held in Khartoum on issues ranging from combating the Lord's Resistance Army to peace in South Sudan and the country's own warring regions, such as Darfur. Mr. Ghandour also said the Obama administration's preliminary decision to ease sanctions came with the full approval of the incoming Trump administration. Addressing a news conference, Mr. Ghandour said the move constituted a positive and important step in the procession of bilateral relations between Sudan and the U.S. and a natural outcome of joint efforts." He called the decision a start to improved relations with the United States that would attract foreign investment. Sudan, he said, will now review its monetary and exchange rate policies in a bid to lure new foreign investment after the United States lifts sanctions, though he gave no further detail. Sudan's economic problems have been building since South Sudan's independence in 2011, taking with it three-quarters of oil output, the main source of foreign currency and government income. According to economic reports, Sudan's losses from U.S. sanctions amounted to over four billion U.S. dollars annually besides affecting important industries in the country.  The sanctions relief is expected to have a significant impact on businesses that deal with agriculture, import-export services, transportation, technology and medical equipment, and oil.

The U.S. placed Sudan on its list of countries sponsoring terrorism in 1993, and in 1997 President Clinton imposed a comprehensive trade embargo against Sudan and blocked the assets of the Sudanese government, claiming it was sponsoring international terrorism. Osama bin Laden was living in Khartoum, as a guest of the Sudan's government, when he was suspected of responsibility for the bombings of the United States Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, in 1998, killing more than 200 people. In retaliation, President Clinton ordered a cruise missile strike against what turned out to be a pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum. The conflict in Darfur, which began in 2003, led to charges at the International Criminal Court against Sudan's President al-Bashir, and a new round of American sanctions. Since then the US has regularly renewed sanctions quoting the continuing conflicts in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan regions and humanitarian issues as well as a number of outstanding issues between Sudan and South Sudan including the dispute over the oil-rich area of Abyei.

A US official noted that Sudan had long expressed a desire to see the sanctions removed as well as other restrictions that the United States had imposed on Sudan over the past 20 years. He said that the US had "over the past two years looked for a way to engage with Sudan in a way we could overcome some of the lack of trust of the past". Indeed, there have been signs of a change in US attitudes. Last February, the U.S. Department of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control announced that it had decided to loosen the sanctions on Sudan, allowing exports of personal communications' hardware and software including smart phones and laptops. It said the move aimed at helping the Sudanese citizens integrate into the global digital community. In October 2015, Washington also expressed readiness to cooperate with Sudan in the field of counterterrorism and to work to prevent flow of terrorist groups and foreign fighters to Sudan and areas of conflicts.

The United Nations on Saturday welcomed the U.S decision to lift some of the sanctions imposed on Sudan. The UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan, Marta Ruedas, said in a statement that the decision was "recognition of steps taken by the government of Sudan during recent months in a number of important areas." She congratulated the government and people of Sudan "on the implementation of these steps which have led to the improvement of relations between the Republic of Sudan and the United States and include key decisions that will facilitate humanitarian actors' efforts to deliver aid to those in need in months to come." She also emphasized that the decision would provide a solid platform for sustainable development in Sudan.

Ethiopia's Foreign Minister, Dr. Workneh Gebeyehu, also welcomed the decision of the United States. Meeting the UN Secretary General's Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, Mr. Nicholas Haysom, Dr. Workneh emphasized that the peace and prosperity of Sudan was also the peace and prosperity of Ethiopia. Their discussions covered the United States announcement on ending the economic embargo on Sudan and on lifting trade and financial sanctions in an effort to foster ties with the Sudanese government. Mr. Haysom, who noted his appreciation of Ethiopia's longstanding effort to bring peace and stability in the Horn of Africa, agreed with Dr. Workneh on the importance of working together to ensure peace and stability in South Sudan in particular and the Horn of Africa in general.


Somalia: the presidential election and presidential priorities

Elections for Somalia's Lower House of Parliament, the House of the People, were finally concluded this week, with the last three seats for the Somaliland community being voted for on Wednesday (January 18). This completed the election of the 46 seats allocated to the Somaliland community. A day earlier, the election for the last two of the seven Benaadiri clan seats took place. The Federal Indirect Electoral Implementation Team also announced on Monday that the Upper House elections for the Somaliland community would be restarting this week and should be completed shortly. The election of the Upper House seats for Somaliland community was postponed several times due to disputes over the process between Somaliland community elders and the electoral committee. Registration for candidates for the position of Speaker of the Upper House, the Senate, has also been going on this week. Candidates are expected to present their campaign speeches to the parliament on Saturday with the election for the Upper House Speaker taking place on Sunday (22 January).

Once this has been completed, the Presidential election, for which there are now some 18 candidates, can take place. Some of the candidates have already been offering public statements and begun to call upon parliamentarians for their support. On Saturday, last week (January 14) four presidential candidates urged the newly inaugurated Federal MPs to elect a leader who could deliver governance and development. A joint press statement by Abdirahman Mohamed Farole, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, Abdi Farah Shirdon and Abdinasir Mohamed Abdulle, welcomed the election of the Lower House Speaker and said new MPs should focus on rebuilding the country and steer clear of personal gains. The statement called on the heads of institutions and security agencies to remain impartial during the election, stressed that every effort should be made to ensure transparency and credibility for the electoral process and respect for the sovereignty of the country, as well as warned against external influence.

The international community has strongly criticized the delays in holding the presidential election, which is now likely to take place at the end of this month or early next month.  It has also criticized the abuses and malpractices that have occurred. Equally, almost all stakeholders have agreed that these should not be allowed to overshadow the very considerable progress made in security and political issues or compromise the efforts to deal with Al-Shabaab and other extremist elements.

The inauguration of the House of the People, the Lower House of Parliament, underlines the progress made. The new Parliament includes a significant number of young parliamentarians from the Diaspora. It will contain representatives of a number of parties, being organized in advance of the proposed ‘one person', ‘one vote' election for 2020. They include secularists and religious groups, among them Damul Jadiid and Al-Islah as well as a number of other parties now being established in preparation for the elections in 2020.

The 275 MPs and 54 Senators will choose the President, They themselves were chosen on a much wider basis than previously, by 14,500 clan elders and leaders rather than the 135 clan elders as in 2012. On average, a majority from 51 clan elders chose each parliamentarian and almost every seat was contested. This did ensure that the process was competitive and participatory, as also as some observers noted "expensive for the candidates."

However, this process also increased possible expenses for presidential candidates, some of whom injected money into the parliamentary elections to try and get their supporters nominated as MPs, and increase their presidential chances. Some presidential candidates even appear to be standing not without any expectation of winning but merely to increase their chances of acquiring a position or access to wealth by offering their support to others. There are claims that some candidates have made agreements with external powers, agreements linked to offshore oil exploration or similar areas in order to get financing for their campaigns.

A new president will have a number of very obvious priorities, not least defining the country's strategic direction as it moves towards the expected one-person, one-vote election in 2020. One is speeding up the rebuilding of the Somali National Forces to take greater responsibility in dealing with security challenges and in particular the operations against Al-Shabaab with AMISOM due to start drawing down its troops in 2018. The SNF is currently ill-equipped, poorly trained and often unpaid; and there is an urgent need to create a properly unified Somali military from the regional state security forces.

There is an equally urgent need to start to tackle youth unemployment, with 75% of the population under 35. Somalia has one of the highest rates of youth unemployment in the world and this makes youngsters vulnerable to being lured into Al-Shabaab or piracy. The recent upsurge in allegations of corruption and resource wastage need an urgent and strong response. Policies are needed to deal with graft and wastage. The international community will also expect action over empowerment of women.

Above all, Somalia needs full implementation of the federal constitution and resolution of the arrangements between the Federal Government and the Federal States, as well as development of a policy of genuine reconciliation to build sustainable peace and stability in Somalia. This depends upon Somalis themselves but it also an area in which IGAD states and the wider international community can play an additional role, uniting to encourage and capitalize on positive developments in Somalia itself.


Ethiopia-Djibouti plans to unlock pan-African commercial potential

Africa's first standard-gauge electric railway, now open for business between Djibouti and Ethiopia, is seen as the first step in unlocking the largely untapped potential of trans-African commercial links.  The 3.4 billion dollar Ethiopian section of the line was inaugurated on October 5 last year; and the Djiboutian section was officially opened on January 10, as we reported last week. Commentators have named the 752km. Ethio-Djibouti line as one of the seven most majestic infrastructure projects of 2016. Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn and Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh celebrated the completion of the project underlining the impact it would have on expanding people-to-people ties as well as reducing air pollution with its use of sustainable power. They also emphasized the effect it would have on enhancing trade and economic exchanges between Ethiopia and Djibouti and also throughout the region. Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn said the railway would "significantly expand development and enhance our competitiveness in international markets". The time to transport a container from Addis Ababa to Djibouti will fall from three days to 10 hours and the cost is expected to fall by a third when the commercial services are fully operational.

In addition to building links with Djibouti's port facilities, the railway will support the development of Djibouti's International Free Trade Zone, which will help spur its manufacturing industry and provide significant employment opportunities. The railway project has been coupled with a US$15 billion expansion program to improve Djibouti's port facilities, and build new highways and airports in the country. Aboubaker Omar Hadi, Chairman of the Djibouti Ports and Free Zones Authority said:  "The railway marks a new dawn for Africa's integration into the global economy. From today, millions more Africans are now linked to Djibouti's world-class port facilities. Connecting Africa, Asia and Europe, Djibouti is at the heart of the world's trade routes, and we are proud to play a vital role in developing the region and wider continent." The President of the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation, which built the Djibouti-Ethiopia line, said last week that China believes that "in the near future this railway will be the lifeline of an important economic zone where marvelous wonders will come to life." It is certainly an example of excellent south-south cooperation underlining the prospects of a wide investment flow to the region.  

Equally important, the line from the Red Sea to Addis Ababa is seen as the first step in inspiring other developments to expand commercial potential and commercial infrastructural links in the region and more widely. Prime Minister Hailemariam said: "I hope it will not be too long before we are able to travel by rail from Djibouti to Dakar and other West African cities."  The railway, in fact, represents the first stage in plans for a 2000km. link that will connect Djibouti and Addis Ababa to Juba in South Sudan. The vision is that this could one day evolve into a Trans-African railway crossing the continent from the Red Sea to the Atlantic Ocean, a journey that can currently take eight weeks by sea. Ethiopia also has plans for a rail link from Addis Ababa to Khartoum.

The electric infrastructure of the Djibouti-Addis Ababa line is already inspiring other African countries to follow suit, encouraging hopes for pan-African trade while enhancing the competitiveness of African countries and their products in the international market. The electrified line is part of Ethiopia projected climate-resilient clean green development trajectory, and can certainly be seen as a symbol of cooperation and mutual growth between counties in the region. Other countries have also begun to spend billions of dollars to replace the slow, narrow gauge lines on the continent. Nigeria has opened a 190km. line from Abuja to Kaduna, the first stretch of a projected 830km. line from Lagos to Kano. Kenya is set to open the 485km. railway from the port of Mombasa to Nairobi this year, and it is already planning to extend this to Uganda. Talks to revitalize the century-old Tanzania Zambia Railway Authority are also well under way.

In a meeting between Ethiopia's Foreign Affairs State Minister, Mrs. Hirut Zemene and Djibouti's Ambassador to Ethiopia, Ambassador Mohamed Idriss, on Tuesday, the two countries further reaffirmed their commitment to expand their already strong relations. Discussions focused on further strengthening their exemplary and wide-ranging regional and global cooperation. State Minister Hirut noted their links in infrastructure, trade, people-to-people ties and a number of joint commissions as well as cooperation in the education sector, which would further enhance people-to-people links. They were working closely to advance cooperation further. Ambassador Mohamed Idriss Farah said the two countries were working closely in economic, social and political sectors for mutual growth and prosperity and they would continue to cooperate on the global stage.


Gambella Diaspora interest in investment in Gambella Regional State

The Government of Ethiopia has been relentlessly working to engage the Ethiopian Diaspora all over the world to invest back home and to contribute to the ongoing rapid development the country while benefiting themselves and their community. Indeed, it has achieved wide-range of investment success stories and still investments in various demanding sectors are growing, both in terms of the Diaspora investment as well as foreign direct investment aspects of the country. The numbers of the Ethiopian Diaspora coming back home and investing their capital, knowledge, skill and experiences, in a quite numerous country priority areas, shows an up-ward spiral, investing in all regional states of the country year after year.  

The Gambella Diaspora Association, based in the United States, recently organized a visit to the Gambella Regional State. Carried out under the theme of "Engaging Diaspora for Development", the Association showed its keen interest to invest in the regional state, and also pledged to encourage others both in the US and elsewhere around the world to do the same. The visit to Gambella organized by the Gambella Diaspora Association, with the support of Gambella People's Regional Government, demonstrated the concerns and interests of the Gambella Diaspora, both in the US and in other countries, to take part in the rapid development of the country and in the Gambella Regional State in particular.

The Gambella Diaspora Association said in a report after its visit that the group had aimed to strengthen engagement of the Diaspora in the ongoing development of the state by establishing a good working relationship with Gambella Regional government and the Ethiopian Federal Government, as well as increase active Diaspora participation and awareness in support of Gambella Regional State's contribution to the development of a more secure, equitable and prosperous region. It described the visit as successful and fruitful and said the members of the group had been able to explore investment opportunities available in the region as well as look at the government commitments to support investment initiatives. It noted that Government officials had laid out a variety of service packages designed to encourage Diaspora support for investment in various sectors, and also welcomed the fact that officials were quick to modify and upgrade opportunities and policies to make them more appealing to Diaspora investment.

The Association commended the government officials at all levels and the public for the warm welcome they had received and for the full package of support they had been given to make their visit productive and rewarding. It said that Gambella Diaspora representatives had been able to hold high-level meetings with various government leaders, including the Diaspora Affairs Directorate General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Gambella People's Regional State Administrative Council, and leaders from various zones and districts within the Gambella State. It described all these as "welcoming" and "very productive". Indeed, Gambella Diaspora Association leaders said the Gambella region and the Federal government had "expressed their unreserved happiness and welcomed all Diaspora to invest in any investment sector as their capacity allow". They said they had shared views with government leaders on numerous aspects and issues of mutual concern, and had discussed any problems that might arise from Diaspora engagement, bureaucratic procedures, issues of good governance, and investment processes as well as questions of peace and security.

The Gambella People's Regional State President, Gatluk Tut, welcomed the presence of the members of the Gambella Diaspora Association. He told the members of the Association that the role of the Diaspora in the development of the region was very important and he emphasized the need to strengthen Diaspora engagement. President Gatluk said the Diaspora should invest their knowledge, skill, and capital in the region's development for their own benefit and the benefit of their fellow compatriots and the nation at large. Considering the fact that the Diaspora is instrumental in building the image of the country and in increasing the flow of Foreign Direct Investment to the region, the President underlined the importance of maintaining close links with homeland areas. During the meetings with government officials, the possibilities of Diaspora involvement in the investment, education, and technology transfer areas were underlined.
Government officials also emphasized their commitment to ensure implementation of Diaspora policy, which is aimed at enhancing the holistic participation of the Diaspora in Gambella Regional State development.

Regional Administrative Council members and zonal and district leaders were impressed by the visit, the first of its kind to allow members of the Diaspora to witness ongoing developments in the Regional State and the efforts to insure sustainable peace and security. They also welcomed the enthusiasm of the Gambella Diaspora Association members to contribute to the development of the nation, and the region, by engaging in different investment sectors.