MIDROC’s Ambitious Visions of Next Five Years

Owner and chairman of MIDROC Ethiopia, Sheik Mohammed Hussein Ali Al-Amoudi, last week signed an agreement at the Sheraton Addis with the Malaysian Consultancy firm AgriNexus to grow four agricultural plants on 250,000hct of land in Ethiopia. The investment, which is hailed as the largest ever by Abi Woldemeskel, director general of the Ethiopian Investment Agency, is expected to create job opportunities for 350,000 people.

At the signing ceremony last Thursday, the Saudi business tycoon made bold plans for MIDROC in the coming five years ranging from ventures in mining to agriculture.

MIDROC Gold, a subsidiary of MIDROC Ethiopia, currently extracts 300Kg to 350Kg of gold annually in Shakiso area of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Regional State (SNNPRS). The announcement of plans to boost this to 1,200Kg within two years would mean a 300pc increase.

Ethiopia’s richest man also has planned to establish a glass factory in a joint venture with a Sudanese company investing 700 million Br. The input for the factory is expected to be acquired from Abijata Soda Ash Factory, which is jointly run by the National Mining Corporation and Privatisation and Public Enterprises Supervising Agency (PPESA).

The factory is expected to produce soda ash pulling water from Lake Shalla to Lake Abijata, which is drying up though it is rich with the glass input. According to the Sheik, the glass factory needs 200 million dollars. Both the glass and soda ash are partially intended for export.

Ethio Agri Ceft, another of Sheik Mohammed’s companies popularly known for its tea production is planning to expand as, according to Mohammed, the country’s demand for tea has risen and its exports have shrunk.

“We have brought experts from Australia and Singapore to boost our tea production threefold,” he told the ministers and executives of MIDROC.

Elfora Agro Processing, one of MIDROC’s subsidiaries, has finalised preparations to cultivate flowers and horticulture on 5,000hct of land, according to Mohammed. Consequently, a Dutch expert has come to conduct a feasibility study.

The packing factory that was begun with an investment of 250 million Br would be finished in late April. This factory would produce an astonishing 3,000 cartons per minute, according to Mohammed.

“Last week we were in Ireland to patch up our transnational airplanes,” said Mohammed. “The company that maintains the planes told us it is interested to open a maintenance company in Africa and we agreed to work towards establishing it in Ethiopia.”

In the underperforming textile sector, the Sheik hopes MAA Garment, found in Mekelle, would finish its one billion Birr expansion in the coming four months to join the industry. According to Mohammed, Ethiopia will no longer need to import textiles if the expansion of MAA Garment is finalised, a drastic change from the current trend.

In Raya and Tekeze, in Tigray Regional State, there he plans to begin large-scale cotton farming to supply two factories in Woldiya in Wollo for jean production.

The company’s 240 million Br food processing factory is hoped to be finalised in the coming six months.

Mohammed also sees room in the milk industry as rising prices have attracted new entrants, using Shola Dairy Development Enterprise, which was acquired by one of MIDROC’s subsidiary companies six months ago. An expert from New Zealand is conducting a study on the market. Mohammed told the invitees that he also wants to see the price of milk now almost four Birr a litre back to its previous price of less than 3.50 Br.

Mohammed also sees room to enter the housing market in Addis Abeba that is inadequate to meet the demands of the burgeoning population. Bringing an expert from Michigan in the United States (US), MIDROC wants to construct real estate for 20,000 people in the coming two years.

In the hospitality sector, the tycoon wants to finalise constructions of a number of hotels in the next two years. In addition to the grand hall at the African Union (AU), Mohammed said he has planned to install a four-star hotel with 200 bedrooms on the 90,000sqm plot on Bole Road (Africa Avenue) after demolishing the Millennium Hall. The Sheraton expansion also needs 37hct of land. Mohammed expressed his dissatisfaction with the city administration for not getting the land on time.

“It has been three years since we paid for the plot but we still have not acquired it,” said Mohammed.

According to the Sheik, this is one of the projects that are expected to change the look of the city.



Al-Amoudi Plans Largest Agro Investment

In the largest single agricultural investment, Ethiopia’s richest man Sheik Mohammed Hussein Ali Al-Amoudi, joined the bio-fuel sector in a joint venture with Jemal Ahmed, one of the biggest edible and palm oil importers in the country.

Establishing Horizon Plantations Plc with a capital of 190 million Br, the two investors received their licenses from the Ethiopian Investment Agency one month ago. Headed by Jemal, in collaboration with AgriNexus of Malaysia, the company plans to embark on an unprecedented project in scope to introduce cash-rich plantation crops to Ethiopia.

“I have never seen a project of this size, Abiy Meskel, director general of the Ethiopian Investment Agency, told Fortune. “It is especially useful for Ethiopia as it is labour intensive.”

This company is expected to grow jatropha, palm oil, rubber trees and tea in the coming five years with a projected investment of 250 million dollars. The total investment land required for the project, which is 250,000hct, five times the size of Addis Abeba, is expected to benefit 350,000 people.

The oil palm investment would be carried out in the Gambela Regional State on 58,000hct of land and the Region is ready to grant the plot for the project, sources disclosed.

Omed Obang, Gambella Regional State President, says land is available but he has not yet received a formal proposal.

Horizon’s biggest project is the 100,000hct plantation of jatropha on 100,000hct, which it wants to carry out in Benishangul Gumuz. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MoARD) is undertaking studies for this project.

Ethiopia has 23.3 million hectares of land suitable for oil-rich jatropha, according to a study by the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MoME).

In September 2007 the Council of Ministers approved the first Ethiopian Energy Strategy that includes plans to extract bio-fuel from jatropha, palm oil, caster seed and ethanol from sugarcane. The MoME study indicates that there is 700,000hct available for sugarcane production.

As in Gambella, Benishangul Gumuz Regional State President, Yaregal Aysheshum, has not yet received a proposal from the company.

“The Region has huge available plots, but a project proposal must be reviewed before giving the green light,” Yaregal told Fortune.

Horizon will be the second company to engage in large-scale mechanised palm oil farming. Fri El Green Power, an Italian Company, has previously received 30,000hct from the Privatisation and Public Enterprises Supervising Agency (PPESA) in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Regional State (SNNPRS) to cultivate palm oil and jatropha with an investment of 320 million Br.

The company hopes to carry out its rubber tree plantation project in Bench Maji Zone of SNNPRS on 85,000hct of land. Rubber tree plantation was first started in Ethiopia by Matador Addis Tyre SC. The company also has 600 rubber trees in Gambela.

The sap of rubber trees is the primary source of natural rubber, which is used widely for industrial products, tyres and furniture.

The third project, tea plantation, is expected to be undertaken either in the Oromia or Gambela regional states on 25,000hct of land. MoARD is conducting a study to parcel the suitable plots.

Sources told Fortune that there is a greater probability that Horizon would be given land for the plantation in Oromia. an Indian Company has already requested to cultivate the plot under consideration in Gambela.

Berhanu Tesfaye, an expert at MoARD, told Fortune the land would be given to Horizon if the Indian company does not develop the land.

Experts from the Ministry have confirmed that over one million hectares of land in the region is suitable for various plantations.

Horizon has signed an agreement on January 23, 2008, with the Malaysian consultant company AgriNexus to give it management roles. Based in the country with over four million hectares of oil and rubber plantations, the company also has experience in plantation development and management in Indonesia and West Africa.

Sheik Mohammed at the end of the signing ceremony stated that the world economy is shaking up with oil and stock markets.

“If we focus on the agricultural sector in Ethiopia, the growth will further expand,” he said.



U.N. extends Ethiopia-Eritrea force mandate 6 months

The Security Council renewed the mandate of the struggling U.N. peace force on the Eritrea-Ethiopia border for six months on Wednesday despite a request from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for just one month.Ban had proposed only a brief extension because he said a fuel cut-off by Eritrea had crippled the force's activities and troops might have to be withdrawn within weeks. But council diplomats said that would amount to giving in to blackmail.

The 1,700-strong United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea, or UNMEE, went to the border in 2000 at the end of a two-year war between the two impoverished countries in the Horn of Africa, which killed 70,000 people.

An independent commission charged with marking the border after the war awarded the flashpoint town of Badme to Eritrea in 2002, but Ethiopia did not implement the decision. In November, the commission demarcated the line by map coordinates in a ruling that Eritrea accepted but Ethiopia rejected.

With UNMEE unable to enforce the commission's decisions, its relations with Asmara have become steadily colder. Earlier this month Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki told the Security Council the force's continued presence on the border would be tantamount to occupation.

In a report to the council last week, Ban said fuel restrictions begun by Eritrea in 2006 and culminating in a total shut-off on December 1 "have severely hampered the mission capacity to effectively implement its mandate."

A resolution passed on Wednesday by the Security Council demanded "that the government of Eritrea resumes immediately fuel shipments to UNMEE or allows UNMEE to import fuel without restrictions." It also prolonged the mandate for six months.

"I think there was a feeling that the council wasn't going to be blackmailed by Eritrea," said a diplomat who asked not to be identified. "We believe (UNMEE) needs to be on the ground as one factor, if not the main factor, preventing the parties from returning to conflict."

The fuel cut-off has forced UNMEE troops on the Eritrean side of the border to drastically reduce patrols and demining activities, according to Ban.

The two countries insist they will not restart their war, but both have moved tens of thousands of troops to the 620-mile (1,000-km) border.

The Security Council called on both sides to reduce their troop levels, settle the border issue and normalize relations.

A letter to the council on Tuesday from Eritrean charge d'affaires Tesfa Alem Seyoum did not mention the fuel cut-off but said the ruling by the Hague-based boundary commission had ended the border issue.

"The issue that requires the council's urgent attention is Ethiopia's continued occupation of sovereign Eritrean territory," it said.

(Editing by Cynthia Osterman)


Ten countries has been elected as Members of the Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the African Union during the ongoing 12th Ordinary Session of the Executive Council at the headquarters of the African Union Commission, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Drawn from the five regions of the continent, the newly appointed member countries of the PSC are: -

- Burundi and Chad (Central Africa
- Rwanda and Uganda (Eastern Africa )
- Tunisia (Northern Africa)
- Swaziland and Zambia (Southern Africa
- Benin, Burkina Faso and Mali (Western Africa).

The election took place within the framework of the 10th Ordinary Session of the African Union Summit of Heads of State and Government billed for 31st January to 2nd February 2008 in Addis Ababa.


The Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC), Professor Alpha Oumar Konare, called on the African Union Foreign Ministers to insure the implementation and respect of good governance, democracy, non-indifference, gender equality amongst other things which he said are principles adopted by the AU Member States themselves.

Professor Konare was speaking yesterday 27 January 2008, at the headquarters of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, while addressing the Twelfth Ordinary Session of the Executive Council, within the framework of the Tenth Ordinary Session of the African Union Assembly of Heads of State and Government, scheduled to take place from 31st January – 2nd February 2008, in Addis Ababa.

Addressing the AU Foreign Affairs Ministers, Chairperson Konare was also very concerned about the maintenance of peace and security within the continent, the reinforcement of the Commission as well as the representation of African diplomatic missions abroad, the leadership of Africa and its socio-economic and political integration and the need for an African common industrial policy. Hence, the theme of the Summit: “Industrial Development of Africa”.

“Africa is one from north to south and from east to west, there is nothing like northern Africa opposed to sub-Saharan Africa”, said the Chairperson of the Commission. He also said partnerships should not be done in a fragmented way between stakeholders and African countries, but rather in solidarity by letting Africa speak with one voice.

Assistance to Member States in Times of Crises:

Concerning the principle of non-indifference, Chairperson Konaré was emphatic on the need to assist member countries in times of crises. He pointed out the case of the serious drought faced by eastern and southern African countries, the Palestine issue “considered by others as a problem of the Middle East” now affecting Egypt, and the Somali and Darfur conflicts which he said are the origin of greater instability of neighbouring countries and Africa as a whole. Professor Konaré however thanked the countries that contributed to the deployment of peacekeeping at request of the AU Commission, especially, Burundi and Uganda.

Regarding the Kenyan presidential post electoral conflict, Chairperson Konare seriously condemned what he described as a systematic violation of human rights. “We can not sit and observe another genocide, after drawing lessons from the Rwanda genocide”, he emphasised. In the same light, Professor Konare urged the Former Chief Executive of the Anjouan Island, Union of the Comoros, Mohamed Bacar, to comply with the AU democratic principles to resolve the problems in his country. “If the President does not want to cooperate, the AU will be obliged to impose other measures to restore peace in the Comoros” the Chairperson said, adding that the issue affects the credibility of the Commission.

Chairperson Konare Argues for One Pan-African language and Press Freedom:

The issue of adopting a common pan-Africa language was raised during the Chairperson’s address at the opening ceremony of the Executive Council. “Swahili should be institutionalised in schools and national languages should be promoted to consolidate our identity and foster African integration”, Professor Konare noted.

The Chairperson of the Commission was further very preoccupied with freedom of the press as well as liberty of expression. He lauded the journalists for painting a real picture of the African Union through their constructive reports. “There is no democracy without the press “, he explained.

Taking the floor later, the UN Under Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Abdoulie Janneh, underscored the need to support Africa’s aspirations of the NEPAD and African Peer Review Mechanism to help develop the continent. Concerning the theme of the Summit, Mr. Janneh explained that industrial development in Africa would reduce the dependence of African countries on production and export of primary commodities as well as integrate firms and businesses into global value chains. This, he said will help the continent to become dynamic, diversified and technologically advanced.

Meanwhile, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and NEPAD of the Republic of Ghana and Chairperson of the Executive Council, Hon. Akwasi Osei-Adjei, said, one area which is critical to the ongoing transformation process of the Union is the implementation of the Accra Declaration on the Union Government. He commended the work done by the Ministerial Committee to that effect and that of the High Level Audit Panel whose report shall be considered by the Council.

How conditionalities impact development aid effectiveness

How conditionalities impact development aid effectiveness More than 140 participants representing governments, multilateral organizations, aid agencies, civil society, private sector and academia converged in Cairo, Egypt this past weekend for a High-level Symposium on development cooperation and looking at ways of enhancing the impact of aid in serving the poor. This event was hosted by the Egyptian Government and supported by the United Nations.
Under the overall theme of “Trends in development cooperation: South-South and triangular cooperation and Aid effectiveness”, the Cairo High-level Symposium promoted a constructive and inclusive dialogue on development cooperation issues. Among the topics up for discussion were the different practices of attaching terms and conditions to development aid; examples of Southern development actors cooperating successfully with one another in improving development results; and current global efforts to improve the quality and effectiveness of development aid.
“We need to commit ourselves, with renewed vigour, to the fight for greater equity among – and within – countries; to pursue poverty eradication, to reach all other Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and to ensure sustainable socio-economic progress for all,” the Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro said in her remarks. “These objectives, which are at the very core of the UN's mission, call for more effective and coherent development cooperation.” Migiro stressed the commitment of the Secretary-General and herself to strengthening the development work of the United Nations through implementing the outcome of the 2005 World Summit - especially the revitalization of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and making it a quality platform for development decisions.
The Symposium was part of the preparations for the first biennial Development Cooperation Forum (DCF), which is due to take place in July 2008 in New York.
Ambassador Léo Mérorès, the newly elected President of ECOSOC said that the Development Cooperation Forum was an important response to momentous changes that have been taking place in international development cooperation. It is also expected to influence the follow-up to the Monterrey consensus at the upcoming Doha Conference on Financing for Development in 2008.
Many speakers at the Symposium recognized the complexity of aid conditionality and the need to reexamine its impact and the distortions it creates. The participants believed that the first Development Cooperation Forum will help provide a deeper understanding of these issues, the sharing of experiences and bringing stakeholders together to work out how to end distortions created by aid conditionality.
The debate showed the great potential the Development Cooperation Forum will have to generate new ideas, to carry forward reflections on improving aid architecture and on building greater coherence around the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals.
Among the participants who attended the symposium in Cairo were: the Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abul Gheit who opened the symposium, USG for Economic and Social Affairs Sha Zukang, and UNCTAD's Secretary-General Supachai Panitchpakdi.

African leaders could serve longer terms at AU helm

African Foreign Ministers have started detailed d iscussions on an audit report compiled on the African Union (AU), which proposes a longer-term limit for the prestigious post of the organisation's chairmanship.
The audit, which seeks to strengthen the continental body and eradicate perceived organisation weaknesses, has also made recommendations on how to correct structural weaknesses within the AU Secretariat, which hampers its effectiveness.
AU Commission Chairperson Alpha Konare, speaking during the opening of the meeting of Foreign Ministers Sunday, appealed for the strengthening of the role of the Commission chairperson and called for "real authority to ensure teamwork."
The report, an indictment of sorts, pointed out glaring weaknesses in the conduct of AU businesses and blames the busy schedule of African leaders as part of the reason why most of the organisation's work agenda is often delayed and left behind schedule.
The panel has recommended that African leaders agree to a seriously devolved system of governance at the top to allow for more serious diplomatic engagements among the leaders.
It seeks to elongate the term of serving chairmen from the current one-year term limit to two-years to give room for follow-up on the implementation of AU declarations.
The audit team, drawn from Africa's leading governance scholars, have asked the Heads of State to de-link the hosting of the continental assembly from assuming the chairmanship and recommended the lessening of emergency summit meetings.
It notes that differences of opinion among the Commissioners of the continental body regarding the approach and understanding of the AU constitution had given rise to varied disagreements among the Commissioners, the Chairperson and the Deputy Chair.
Managers and directors holding senior posts at the Commission have also complained to the audit team that their roles had been widely overlooked.
The team has therefore sought to reinstate the seniority of the AU Commission chairperson in the running of the Union's affairs and called for proper induction of all new staff members to make them responsive to the visions and aspirations of the Union.
The audit report, compiled by a high-level panel of the continental body appointed last July to audit the organs of the organisation, has brought out stunning revelations of several factors crippling the AU, including a lack of better qualified staff at African missions
Ghanaian Foreign Minister Akwasi Osei-Adjei said the High-Level Audit Panel, headed by a former Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, Adebayo Adedeji, has concluded its work and handed in its report to the AU Commission Chairperson.

"I have no doubt in my mind that we would be able to synthesis the full reports and come up with condensed but insightful and focused recommendations, as directed by our (AU heads of state) principals," Osei-Adjei told the opening session of the Executive Council.

The audit report has recommended an overhaul of the organisation's top organs and a re-make of the institutions, to broaden their mandate and make them more efficient in the discharge of their mandate.

In particularly, the report has recommended the expansion of the Foreign Minister's panel, tagged the Executive Council, through a transformation process to infuse expertise in its deliberations.

The audit panel noted that the Executive Council should be transformed into a Council of Ministers to allow various ministers holding various portfolios to sit on its deliberations.