Cablegate: Ethiopia Registers American Chamber of Commerce - Hope For
DE RUEHDS #2093 2121258
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 301258Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1502
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
UNCLAS ADDIS ABABA 002093
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: BEXP ETRD ECON PREL ET
SUBJECT: ETHIOPIA REGISTERS AMERICAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE - HOPE FOR
1. The Ethiopian Ministry of Justice formally registered the
American Chamber of Commerce in Ethiopia (ACCE) on June 26 after a
concerted 20-month effort by Embassy Addis Ababa to establish what
is only the fourth American Chamber of Commerce in Africa. The
establishment of the ACCE offers a unique opportunity on the
continent to leverage private sector engagement to greatly expand
bilateral trade and investment relations. Embassy Addis Ababa is
working with ACCE leaders to orchestrate a major launch of the
Chamber and greatly expand its membership, and, through a modest
foreign assistance project, will help establish a strong
institutional foundation for the Chamber to quickly become
self-sustaining. U.S.-Ethiopian trade has expanded, and although
the U.S. maintains a large trade surplus, the Chamber can help to
develop greater trade ties. End Summary.
2. The Ethio-American Business Community Association (EABCA) came
into being in November 2004 as a loose affiliation of Diaspora
returnee business leaders. Since 2004, the association has grown to
140 members consisting of U.S. based companies, local Ethiopian
Companies working closely with American counterparts, and
individuals with an interest in doing business with U.S. companies.
Recognizing the need further to promote the development of trade and
investment relations between the United States and Ethiopia,
Ambassador Yamamoto initially proposed creating an American Chamber
of Commerce in Ethiopia in late 2006. Once established, the ACCE
could provide members a forum to identify common commercial
interests, serve as an information clearing house, provide a direct
liaison office with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and address the
need for a stronger and fully functioning association. The EABCA
leadership and Post agreed that the EABCA would be the appropriate
foundation from which to establish the ACCE. Together, we secured
ACCE recognition from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 2007 and the
EABCA's executive membership was paramount in leading the lengthy
and sometimes frustrating transformation from the EABCA to American
Chamber of Commerce in Ethiopia.
3. Despite the confirmed verbal recognition from a range of
pertinent Ethiopian ministers of the value and advantages of
establishing an American Chamber of Commerce in Ethiopia,
transforming EABCA into ACCE has required persistent diplomatic
engagement between Post and relevant GoE entities. The chairman of
EABCA has reported that officials of Ethiopian Chamber of Commerce
has presented their objection to the Ethiopian Ministry of Trade and
Industry, which has a say in the process, to block the registration
of ACCE. Countering this has required sustained engagement by the
Ambassador with the Ministers of Trade and Justice and the Prime
Minister over the course of the past 18 months.
THE WAY FORWARD
4. Although ACCE is now registered, the EABCA must convene a General
Assembly formally to transform the association into the Chamber,
adopt the ACCE's revised bylaws, and elect a new Board of Directors.
The leadership has tentatively targeted the end of October 2008 for
this Assembly. USAID/Ethiopia has allocated $75,000 to support the
hiring of an Executive Director, expand membership better to capture
interested U.S. companies and improve demographic representation,
and establish strong institutional procedures and relationships.
Post will maintain one ex-officio member on the Board of Directors
and will actively guide and support the development of a strong,
professional, and capable institutional foundation for the ACCE.
After over a year of active commercial outreach to U.S. companies
with vested interests in Ethiopia, Post expects to see strong and
prominent American corporate support for the ACCE as it leads the
way in dramatically expanding trade and investment ties between the
U.S. and Ethiopia.
5. Potential benefits include expanded trade. Currently the U.S.
exports USD 500 million in machinery and tools to Ethiopia and
imports about USD 80 million from Ethiopia. The Chamber is viewed
as a positive vehicle to help Ethiopia improve business activities
and receptivity to foreign business. The two critical areas of
banking and telecom will be a focus for the Chamber as keys to
attracting U.S. investment. The Prime Minister supports the Chamber
and has urged the U.S. to increase investment.