U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia
at the Discussion on Responsible Business Practices
Hilton Hotel, Addis Ababa
June 21, 2018
(As prepared for delivery)
Good afternoon everyone, and thank you for being a part of this very important discussion.
There has been a lot of talk of change in Ethiopia recently.
And I have to say I’m extremely encouraged, not just because of the kinds of change being proposed, but because of the meaningful debates and discussions that these proposals are generating.
This is particularly true on economic and commercial matters, as Ethiopians ponder the potential impact and opportunity of proposals that would allow for increased involvement of private investors, including international investors, in Ethiopia’s economy.
The point of today’s discussion is to feed into this important conversation by inviting U.S. companies who are already working here to discuss their experiences, answer questions about their business practices, and share their views on how they, and companies like them, can contribute to their own, as well as Ethiopia’s, economic success.
The United States has consistently advocated for greater space for the private businesses and investors to thrive.
While Ethiopia has made tremendous progress on economic growth in recent years, the challenges ahead will require a greater role for the private sector.
From job creation, to access to foreign exchange and financing, to increasing prosperity, creating an environment where private enterprises can thrive and attract investments will allow Ethiopia to tap into the incredible potential I see when I meet business owners, entrepreneurs, and students, all of whom are thinking about the future and what they could accomplish if given the tools and opportunities to turn their ideas into reality.
We often talk about encouraging policies and practices that would create a better environment for U.S. companies, such as transparency, consistency, and a level playing field.
But the truth is that the practices that are good for U.S. companies are good for other responsible companies as well.
And what’s good for U.S. companies is also good for Ethiopia’s growth and development, since U.S. firms bring with them a deep sense of corporate social responsibility and strong practices in support of fair employment conditions, training, knowledge transfer, environmental stewardship, and producing high-quality products.
In the United States, businesses know that investing in their products and infrastructure aren’t enough to succeed; they need to invest in their employees and communities as well.
And this is true of their overseas operations as well as their U.S.-based ones.
As of March 2018, there were already nearly 250 U.S. investment projects active here in Ethiopia according to the Ethiopian Investment Commission, with several hundred more under consideration or preparing to start.
And U.S. businesses are active in a wide range of sectors including aviation, energy, mining, healthcare, agriculture, manufacturing, information and communications technology, and engineering consultancy services.
These investors and businesses bring a focus on quality products as well as responsibility for the social and environmental impacts of their operations.
They are leading the way in respect for labor rights and, in the process, are sharing best practices in management and leadership.
They are investing in the communities where they work, enhancing community resources and building the skills of workers to be proficient in new technologies.
To talk to you more about the specifics of what American companies have to offer in Ethiopia, we have a panel of representatives of three major companies with operations here.
First we have General Electric, or GE.
GE is a huge company, with a wide range of interests worldwide, including here in Ethiopia.
GE Aviation’s engines power the majority of Ethiopian Airline’s aircraft, and the company has invested in a broad knowledge transfer program to develop the airline’s capacity to maintain its engines.
GE Power and Grid Solutions has completed work to rehabilitate 11 key power substations as part of Ethiopian Electric Power’s Electricity Transmission System Improvement Program.
On top of that, GE Healthcare funded a project to support the Ministry of Health’s goal to reduce maternal and child mortality in collaboration with USAID.
The next company represented on the panel is Dow, which offers a range of technology-based products and solutions in areas such as packaging, infrastructure, transportation, consumer care, electronics, and agriculture.
Here in Ethiopia, Dow is focused on supporting manufacturing capabilities through investments in innovation and technology.
And finally, we have PVH, an American clothing company that includes well-known brands such as Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Van Heusen, and IZOD in its portfolio.
PVH has worked closely with the Ethiopian Industrial Parks Corporation and the Ethiopian Investment Commission in the creation of the Hawassa Industrial Park, which is specifically designed to minimize the impact of its operations on the environment.
In addition to the economic benefits they bring to Ethiopia, each of these companies is a model for corporate social responsibility.
This afternoon, they will share more with you about their operations, goals, and contributions to Ethiopia and I encourage you to ask questions to learn even more.
As Ethiopia explores new ways of tapping its incredible economic potential, my embassy colleagues and I will be working hard to encourage American companies to be part of the process — both as investors and as examples of foreign investment that benefits for everyone.
Thank you again for coming, and please enjoy the conversation.