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Wegagen Opens Office On Ethio-Somaliland Border

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Addis Ababa , Ethiopia , November 4, 2005 (Addis Fortune) – Wegagen Bank has become the first to open an office at the Ethiopia-Somaliland border town of Togochale for import and export related bank transactions.

Ethiopia had only been using the Port of Djibouti after the 1998 conflict with Eritrea . Last May a high level delegation of Ethiopian officials went to visit the unrecognised state of Somaliland to arrange to use the Berbera Port , 964Km from Addis Abeba, as an alternative. A week ago, a technical team of 12 experts drawn from various government offices travelled to Somaliland to assess port preparations, border towns and the road from the port to Addis Abeba.

The first two cargos of 500 containers are expected to arrive at this port aboard two vessels next week. On completion of the port's preparations, Wegagen took the first step to rent an office, at an undisclosed rent, to handle documents such as letters of credit and bills of lading. The office is located in a building constructed in Togochale by Haji Mohammed Aksede, a native of the area and one of the major coffee exporters in Ethiopia . Wegagen, established in 1997 as the sixth private bank in Ethiopia since private banking re-emerged in 1994, is also the only one to have an office in Metema, 745Km north-west of Addis Abeba and close to the Ethiopian-Sudanese border.

" The government's decision to use Berbera is one of the reasons we decided to have an office in the area," said a high level official of the Bank, "but we also understood that there is enough market to develop the office into a branch."

This will happen as soon as infrastructure, such as roads and electricity are completed, according to the official.

Wegagen has 10 branches in Addis Abeba, and 17 in regional towns. It also has foreign exchange and letter of credit centres at the Addis Abeba Bole International Airport and at the International Livestock Research Institute.

Sources said that the Bank is now transporting office furniture to the Togochale office, although the Bank's public relations office denied this saying that opening an office in Togochale was still at the planning stage.

Sources in the Bank said the new office will organise documents on clients' cargoes and send them to the branch in Jijiga, 628Km east of Addis Abeba, for further processing.

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