The International Finance Corporation (IFC) – dubbed as the private sector arm of the World Bank Group –has brought together public and private entities to reinitiate the public private dialogue forum.
A meeting:“enhancing private sector engagement at times of reform፡ lessons learnt so far and the way forward,” was held on Thursday. MamoMihtetu, senior advisor with the Office of the prime minister, and AbebeAbebayehu, Commissioner of the Ethiopian Investment Commission, have engaged with representatives of the private sector.
Back when the PPP was holding its first meeting both Mamo and Abebe was known to have played a facilitating role for this government-private sector discussion platform representing multilateral development partners to the Ethiopian government.
The meeting brought light to the issues such as what could work best in the current political and economicenvironment. It also dealt with the challenging experiences and opportunities businesses have sustained. Local entrepreneurs expressed their quagmires and fears of being crowded-out by the influx of foreign businesses.
Representing furniture and leather manufacturers, businesspersons have echoedserious concerns of being pushed-out from the sector. In fact, they import raw materials in the entirety leaving the country with a widening hard currency gaps. YaredAlemayohu, owner of Walia Leatherand Leather products PLC, has magnified the dire situations of footwear makers and tanneries are facing. He claimed that 20 factories are about to be foreclosed in the coming four months. Partly, the factories donot have ample financing for their operations. They lack working capital and now, the aggressive competition from Chinese owned factories is making it more difficult, Yared argues.
Similarly, Bethlehem Tilahun, founder of the globally well receivedSoleRebels, a shoe brandand owner of coffee chain now operatingin China, has iterated how difficult it is to have access to finances for small scale businesses. Two years ago, along with 12 shoemakers, Bethlehem has launched “Made by Ethiopia”–a footwear makers collective effort aimed at maximizing global markets–however, couldnot succeed due to the numerous challenges, lack of financing and red-tape being the central issue. According to the factories, theyhad an orderto supply two million pairs of shoes.
Noting the hardshipsbusinesspersons have raised, Mamoasserted that the administration has the commitment to address the critical challenges the business community is facing. He said that he will forward the pertinent questions to the Office of the Prime Minister and other concerned authorities.
It is also known that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) has tasked a new group of expertsincluding Mamo and Abebeto facelift Ethiopia’s ranking in the so called “Ease of Doing Business” report, which the World Bank issues regularly. Currently, Ethiopia is ranked 159 out of 190 economies. The Primer responding to MPs yesterday said that the taskforce he chairs targets a doing business ranking below 100.
Speaking to The Reporter, Adamou Labara, IFC country director for Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, DR. Congo, Somalia and the Sudan, said that he is more interested with the reform measures that would give impetus to the private sector. The meeting his office organized was a platform to help resume, discussions and consultations between the private and the public sectors. During an exclusive interview with The Reporter, Labara said that Ethiopia is one of the founding members of IFC in 1956 and has mandated the Corporation to focus on the private sector. He said that IFC is motivated by the current administration’s reforms: “There’s a major shift from the public driven kind of economic growth to the private sector led growth.”