Talking Business: Ethiopia – opportunities, challenges and myths

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Morgan Uloko, country manager of DHL Express Ethiopia

Morgan Uloko, country manager of DHL Express Ethiopia

How we made it in Africa talks business with Morgan Uloko, country manager of DHL Express Ethiopia.

Name one trend impacting the way business is done in Ethiopia?

The economy of Ethiopia is substantially state driven. Government shapes the way business is done here in a very positive manner through strong focus, disciplined commitment to regulatory and infrastructural developments, as well as strong institutions. This scenario coupled with safety and a low crime rate has helped to support investor confidence, strong FDI growth and an enviable GDP growth, averaging 11% year-on-year over the last 12 years.

What is the greatest myth about doing business in Ethiopia?

The assumption that the cost of labour is cheap. That may have been true 10-20 years ago when the country was rising from a debilitating famine, but certainly not today if you want to keep healthy and productive labour relations.

What is the biggest untapped business opportunity?

The biggest untapped business opportunity in Ethiopia for me would be the telecommunications sector. This sector has the capacity to more than double the contribution of services to GDP, in addition to helping to significantly reduce unemployment in the country.

Describe some challenges investors can expect to encounter.

The dearth of foreign exchange or ready access to it is a major investment constraint in the country. Closely linked to this is the challenge it poses for investors’ capacity to repatriate profits. Secondly, infrastructure, even though having received a lot of government attention in the last decade, still has a long way to go, especially in the area of ICT development and expansion. The logistics industry also remains in its infancy and the sector can certainly benefit from additional investments, particularly in the area of improved road quality.

Name one local business person that you admire.

One local business person in Ethiopia that I admire is Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu. Betty is a young woman with a modest family background who defied all the challenges women entrepreneurs face in Africa and succeeded in growing her hand-made shoe business into a multi-million dollar enterprise in roughly 10 years. The soles of her shoes are made from rubber which is sourced from discarded vehicle tyres. Today, she has diversified into leather goods and exports to Western, European and Asian markets, with DHL Express Ethiopia providing the logistics.

How do you see the business environment and economy change over the coming years?

I see very positive economic trends in the short to medium term, especially if we continue to see the discipline with which the current government executed the Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP 1). GTP 2 was only launched a few months ago. I see a strong manufacturing sector, with its contribution to GDP further rising on the back of the development of industrial parks around the country and associated incentives to investors. I also see improved energy generation with the potential to reduce production costs if the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is completed on schedule. Textile, leather and agro-industries are other sectors with strong growth potential. Overall, indications are that the strong economic growth we have seen in the last decade will continue in the foreseeable future.

Name one tourist attraction business people shouldn’t miss when visiting Ethiopia?

Lake Tana at Bahir Dar, located in the north-western highlands. It measures 84km long by 66km wide and is the largest water body in this landlocked country. It is the source of the Blue Nile and a spectacular sight to behold.

[box type=”note”]Meet Morgan Uloko

By what time in the morning do you like to be at your desk? At 8am

How do you relax? I relax by watching football, particularly the English premiership. I am a fan of Arsenal.

Best book you have ever read? Winning by Jack Welch – the legendary American CEO of General Electric.

Top holiday destination? Rwanda

Favourite quote? “The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavour. The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.”- Vincent Lombardi[/box]