Remarks by Ambassador Patricia Haslach at the Economic Students at Mekelle University



OCTOBER 21, 2014, 10:45 AM

U.S. Engagement with Ethiopia

  • The United States and the people of Ethiopia share a strong history as friends and partners, since we established diplomatic relations in 1903, over a hundred and ten years ago. Ethiopia is at the diplomatic center of Africa, and the steady heart of the Horn of Africa.
  • When Prime Minister Hailemariam met President Obama at the United Nations General Assembly last month (only one of a few meetings with world leaders), he held up Ethiopia as one of the bright spots of Africa, with one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. As President Obama mentioned, we are strong trading partners, and we work together closely on peacekeeping and conflict resolution, including through peacekeeping missions in Sudan and South Sudan.
  • Today, the three pillars of the bilateral relationship are: economic growth and development; democracy, governance, and human rights; and regional peace and security.
  • Given your studies and the university faculty gathered here, I want to focus my remarks to you today about just one of the three pillars: economic growth and development.

Economic Development in Ethiopia

  • The USG applauds Ethiopia’s progress on economic development in the last ten years.  Ethiopia has had one of the world’s fastest growing economies over the last decade. According to the World Bank, growth has averaged over 10% during that time.
  • Under the government’s Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP), economic growth has been led by government investment in public infrastructure projects from schools and clinics to hydro-electric power plants, airports, roads and railways.
  • Our economic assistance is aimed at linking directly to the GTP, and our economic interests are mutual.  Both American and Ethiopian businesses will prosper by further deepening our trade relationship, and an economically sustainable Ethiopia is of vital importance to the stability of the Horn of Africa.

Our Economic Relationship


  • The African Growth and Opportunity Act continues to provide export opportunities for Ethiopia opening up the tremendous U.S. consumer market to Ethiopian-manufactured products at significant tariff reductions and in the key focus areas of the GTP — leather and garment manufacturing and agri-processing.
  • In fact, many American and other global companies identify AGOA as a key ‘pull’ for their relocation of manufacturing opportunities to this region. Ethiopia co-hosted with the U.S. the AGOA forum last year and we work with the Ministries of Trade and Industry on an ongoing basis to grow AGOA-related exports from Ethiopia.


  • Under Power Africa, the U.S. government has been working with African governments, the private sector and other partners such as the World Bank and the African Development Bank in six focus countries — Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, and Tanzania — to add more than 10,000 megawatts of clean, efficient electricity generation capacity. The success of this Initiative in its initial stages led President Obama to triple our goal to adding 30,000 megawatts across Africa during the African Leaders Summit in Washington DC this past August.
  • We are working closely with Ethiopian Electric Power (EEP) and the Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Energy (MoWIE) to support Ethiopia’s already existing energy plan. The flagship Power Africa transaction here is the Corbetti geothermal project.  Under the agreement between Reykjavik Geothermal and the Ethiopian government, the project is expected to generate up to 1000 MW of electricity.  In addition, the project is the first independent power production project in Ethiopia, and is paving the way for future private sector agreements.


  • The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief has had a significant presence in Ethiopia for 10 years and has helped the government make great inroads in controlling its HIV/AIDS epidemic.
  • In addition to having a significant impact on HIV/AIDS in Ethiopia, PEPFAR has also supported economic development – specifically in the private health sector.  PEPFAR has put more than $20 million towards the USAID-led Private Health Sector Program, which has helped to create an enabling policy environment so that private clinics and providers can make use of anti-retroviral therapy, TB, and other key public health services.
  • PEPFAR also supports the USAID-led Strengthening Health Outcomes through the Private Sector, which partners with local private banks and provides technical assistance to private clinics and pharmacies to facilitate their access to credit.


  • During the meeting with President Obama, Prime Minister Hailemariam also hailed the positive effects of U.S. government programs aimed at reducing the impact of malaria on Ethiopian farmers, and the “most important program” of the Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition (i.e. Feed the Future), which is a model public-private partnership between the public and private sectors of both our countries.
  • We assess that 168,000 Ethiopian producers are using new technology and skills with Feed the Future help, for $196 million in farmer sales, 1.6 million children under five reached with nutrition help, 1 million hectares tended with improved technologies or management practices, and $68.6 million in new private investment leveraged through the program in the previous fiscal year (note: US FY2013).


  • There are many ways the economy can be boosted by higher levels of Foreign Direct Investment. At the Embassy, we have noticed that U.S. companies are showing markedly increased interest in Ethiopia. To better facilitate greater American private sector interest in Ethiopia, we have expanded our business services through the opening of an office of the Foreign Commercial Service, part of the Department of Commerce, in the Embassy.

American Assistance for Economic Development in Mekelle

  • The United States supports Ethiopia’s economic development in many ways. We contribute more than $700 million annually to your government’s development efforts.  Two recent examples of projects are right here in Mekelle.
  • Yesterday, the United States Agency for International Development kicked off the first of five regional school milk day events at the SOS school in Mekelle.  The campaign is to raise awareness and knowledge of the importance of milk for nutrition among school-age children, their parents, and teachers.
  • Although Ethiopia has the largest number of livestock of any country in Africa, at 19 liters per capita per year, its milk consumption is far behind its neighbors in Kenya, who consume 85 liters per capita per year.  The African average is 40 liters per capita per year.  Milk is an important food, especially for young children who need the nutrients and vitamins it provides for healthy growth and cognitive development.
  • A second event is taking place as we speak. USAID is sponsoring a day long Livestock Investment Forum at the Axum Hotel. It is the last forum in a series of four organized in Oromia, Amhara, SNNPR, and Tigray.
  • These forums connect foreign and local investors with high potential companies that have lucrative investment opportunities in the livestock sector. More than 100 businesses took part in investment forums and so far, 18 businesses have attracted the attention of nine local, and three international, investment companies.
  • A social investment fund and a private equity investment brokerage firm from the U.S. were among the investors interested in investing in the livestock sector. The forums have also helped 26 businesses create vital connections for sales relationships and partnerships with other actors in their respective dairy, meat, and live animal value chains.  We believe that the competitiveness of the livestock and related industries in Ethiopia can only grow when the private sector actively participates. This forum provides opportunities to connect investors with opportunities that also will benefit smallholder farmers that we support.

Some Advice for Students

  • I myself have specialized in economics working for the U.S. Department of State as a diplomat.  At the risk of your professors thinking I was trying to replace them, I’d like to talk about some tangible advice for economics students, in three simple but powerful steps: Learn, Discuss, and Do.
  • Learn: Master the tenets of the field, and understand where we are in the current stream of economic theory.  Read books on notable economic and business thought-leaders, including Nobel laureates, Steve Jobs of Apple, Warren Buffet, the so-called Oracle of Omaha, and Bill Gates.  Read the debates between followers of Keynes and Hayek.  Listen to TED Talks, and enroll in free MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) from universities around the world.  Understand the connection between the powerful tool of economics and everyday life.   Master the use of spreadsheets and presentation software.
  • Discuss: Do you have a business club?  4H?  Create these networks of students to refine what you have learned.  Use presentation software to present ideas to each other, and hone your presentation skills.  Follow people on social networks, share ideas with them, and seek feedback.  Support your peers: Entrepreneurs have a hard time starting out, but for women entrepreneurs the bar is even higher.
  • Do: Better your community.  Apply the ideas you learned and discussed to your own homes.  Find solutions to real problems.  Effectively manage the scarce resources you learned about in your economics courses.  There are real world development challenges in your own backyard crying out for smart solutions.  Create a market to bridge gaps in supply and demand.  And finally, test your assumptions, and be ready to constantly learn new things, and challenge yourselves.  Your work at the local level is one way to help your country meet its development goals.

YALI (Mandela Washington Fellows)

  • We are currently recruiting the next set of Ethiopians to take part in this new and exciting program to travel to Washington and get targeted leadership training and networking opportunities.  My Public Affairs Officer, David Kennedy, can share more information on the program.