|The Somaliland Times|
|ISSUE 42 November 9, 2002||
Ethiopian and Kenyan Ambassadors Speak at Seattle University
By Jamal Gabobe
Seattle, Washington - The Washington State Africa Trade & Investment 4th year Forum was held on Oct.12, 2002 at Seattle University's Pigott Auditorium. The event was organized by the African Chamber of Commerce of the Pacific Northwest, and was attended by close to eighty people. One of the speakers was Mr. Kenneth Kukes, SBA Seattle, who spoke about the variety of assistance his office provides to small business. Mr. Kukes pointed out that the US government has a built-in bias in favor of exporters from America to other countries as opposed to importers, but his office tries to help both importers and exporters. He added that his office issues publications and catalogues as well as engages in business matchmaking, dissemination of information and trade shows.
Among the speakers was Mr. Norman Levin, Washington State Coordinator, United States Global Technology Network (USGTN), USAID GTN for Africa. Mr Levin said that USAID contracts IESC, a nonprofit organization, to run GTN. "What does GTN do?" he asked. His reply to his own question:
"We facilitate sustainable technology transfers. We operate in the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique and other countries. We encourage user-friendly commerce, match US businesses and US firms with foreign firms. GTN staff assist in finalizing customs and shipping, do extensive market research, market intelligence, agent distribution agreement, franchise, license, e-commerce, company registration, harmonized codes, request for quotations."
Mr. Levin emphasized African success stories.
Then it was the turn of the Ethiopian Ambassador to the United States, H. E. Kassahun Ayele who gave an overview of business and investment opportunities in Ethiopia. Some of the things the ambassador said were:
"I found the discussions this morning about the incorporation of Africa into world trade fruitful. Africa's marginalization continues. Direct investment-flow into Africa is negligible, most of it invested in the oil sector. African countries have been liberalizing, for example Nepad. In Ethiopia, our participation is limited despite a huge potential. Ethiopia's approach is to identify policy problems, invest in comparative advantage, assign tax holidays, make components used for export duty-free, and provide a stable macroeconomic environment."
Some of what the Kenyan Ambassador to the United States, H.E. Dr. Yusuf Nzibo said:
"Returns on investment are high in Africa yet there is very little investment. The buzz-word on Africa is still terrorism, HIV, Somalia. It is our hope that Americans will join us as we move to democracy. Nepad is critical. Corruption and insecurity change with contacts, exchange of delegations and empowerment. Kenya is the gateway to Central Africa. When you think of Kenya don't think of the 30 million Kenyans, think of the 100 million in the East African Community, the 22 countries in COMESA. Kenya is keen on economic reform, negotiations are at an advanced stage with the IMF. For the last 30 years, Kenya has been an island of peace, a hub of commerce and a haven for refugees, refugees who have enriched our lives. Kenya Airways, of which KLM is a 40% owner, is a success story. It is also an example of cooperation with neighboring countries. For example, Kenyan pilots were trained in Ethiopia. When Ethiopia had its problems, its headquarters was temporarily transferred to Nairobi. Kenya exports more goods to Uganda than anyone else. Starbucks is very active in Kenya but there is room for more. The export of flowers to Europe is going well, mostly to the Dutch market. American businesses often use European agencies, because Europeans tell them they know more about Africa due to the colonial connection. Americans should deal with Africans directly, not through Europeans."
When the presentations were over, I chatted briefly with the Ethiopian ambassador, Mr. Ayele. Naturally, our discussion veered to the Somali situation. I told him that many Somalis agree with Ethiopia's building-block approach to the Somali problem. "I'm happy to hear that. Some people misunderstand what we're doing for Somalia. It's in our interests to have peace and stability in Somalia," said Mr. Ayele. The ambassador then asked me what I think of the Somali conference in Kenya. I told him, "I don't expect much from this conference. The same people who participated in 14 failed previous conferences are taking part in this one. They will come and sign whatever they're asked to sign, then go back to the few blocks of streets under their control, and resume their murder and mayhem. The international community should continue its building-block approach and help those who help themselves, like Somaliland."