The longstanding friendship and cooperative relationship between Ethiopia and Morocco is moving to new levels of practical cooperation, from the political to the economic sphere of partnership, with the two day state visit of King Mohammed VI of Morocco to Addis Ababa last weekend. The talks between King Mohammed VI and Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn underlined the interest of both countries to move into the realm of practical economic cooperation, making development and mutual interest the core element of bilateral relations. The practical application of the new cooperative partnership between the two countries was exemplified by the signing of a framework agreement between the government of Ethiopia and Morocco’s Office Cherifien des Phosphates to partner in a joint venture to build a $3.7 billion fertilizer plant. The complex, which will be OCP’s biggest investment outside Morocco, will be in Dire Dawa. OCP’s Chief Executive Officer, Mostafa Terrab, said the aim would be to reduce Ethiopia’s dependence upon fertilizer imports. By 2022, Ethiopia would be able to produce 80% of its feti8lizer needs through this plant and be self-sufficient by 2025.
The bilateral talks emphasized that both sides were ready to carry forward bilateral ties and deepen existing bonds of friendship. King Mohammed VI and Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn discussed various issues of common interest. They agreed to elevate links to a new high and expedite cooperation in a comprehensive manner. The two sides agreed on the need to break new ground and tap into a new level of cooperation within the framework of the Joint Ministerial Commission. They called upon the respective business communities to exploit the potential of business and investment opportunities.
Prime Minister Hailemariam applauded Morocco’s unremitting commitment for Africa’s peace, stability and development. He reiterated Ethiopia’s devotion to the realization of the values and principles of the African Union. The Prime Minister noted that it was in this regard that Ethiopia commended the recent decision of Morocco to rejoin the African Union as early as the next AU Summit. King Mohammed VI, who expressed appreciation of the role played by Ethiopia in the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, (IGAD) described Ethiopia as an advocate and promoter of peace, stability and integration in Africa. He congratulated Prime Minister Hailemariam on Ethiopia’s election as a non permanent member of the UN Security Council and hailed Ethiopia’s commitment to promote Africa’s interests.
The two leaders also exchanged views on issues of peace and security in the region. They agreed on the necessity to remain committed to the fight against terrorism in all its forms and manifestations as well as to work together against transnational crimes. They also agreed to strengthen international and regional coordination and cooperation in support of peace and stability, prevent armed conflicts, combat terrorism, and promote a culture of tolerance and peaceful coexistence. They also shared a commitment to support efforts to combat the threat of climate change in addition to working together to promote sustainable development.
King Mohammed VI and Prime Minister Hailemariam attended the signing ceremony for cooperation agreements covering a number of areas including a convention for the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income; agriculture; air services; and reciprocal promotion and protection of investments. The two countries also signed Memoranda of Understanding committing both sides to work together in economic, scientific, technical and cultural cooperation; renewable energy development; water management and irrigation, and hotel and tourism training.
On the occasion of the King’s visit, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Business Diplomacy Directorate-General hosted an Ethio-Morocco business forum at Hilton Addis on Friday (November 18), to lay a foundation for their joint trade and investment relations. The occasion brought together more than 40 investors and representatives of businesses from both countries. Ethiopia’s State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Regassa Keffale in his opening remarks said the Forum provided an important platform where the two countries could strengthen their bilateral ties. With the recent opening of Ethiopian mission to Morocco, he said relations between Ethiopia and Morocco were gathering momentum, adding that Ethiopia was ready to receive Moroccan investors. He said Ethiopia offered significant opportunities to Moroccan investors, not least as a gateway to the markets of Eastern Africa. The head of the Moroccan business delegation, Ms. Miriem Bensalah-Chaqroun, declared that the Forum provided the opening for a new economic relationship, stressing “the need to strengthen our Economic ties”. She said the two countries shared common grounds of economic growth, more investment and local jobs. She also noted that non-tariff regimes, and structural and institutional problems related to economic connectivity were areas on which the two sides could work.
Investment Commissioner Fitsum Arega in his presentation on Ethiopia’s conducive business environment noted that Ethiopia had a clear vision, strategy and policy, promoting specific sectors. It had a fast growing economy, a huge consumer market, an untapped natural resource, a trainable and cheap labor force, and ample infrastructure to ease connectivity in trade. Moreover, he said, it offered duty-free market access through agreements to the US, Europe and East and Southern Africa. It also provided attractive incentives including tariff-free import and tax holidays. He invited Moroccan investors to build their own industrial park. Mr. Solomon Tadesse from the Ethiopian Tourism Organization also briefed the delegation on Ethiopia’s tourist attractions, which he noted included a number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. He called on Moroccan business delegates to demonstrate their rich experience in tourism development in Ethiopia.