Horn Review sat for an interview with Mr. Kebour Ghenna, a renowned economist and entrepreneur who founded and currently serves as the executive director of the Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Having served as president of both Addis Ababa city and the Ethiopian Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Ghenna has a unique perspective on the country’s economic standing. With an established background in the development sector, Mr. Genna served in leadership positions in the Ethiopian Red Cross, UN Economic Commission for Africa, the UN Development Programme, the World Bank Institute, and the International Development Research Centre. Moreover, Mr. Ghenna has a diverse business portfolio with investments in print media, agri-business, and consulting.

In this interview, Mr. Ghenna speaks about inflation, the benefits of the economic integration of East Africa as well as the role AfCTA can play to facilitate regional cooperation.

Horn Review:

Dr. Mukerrem, thank you for taking the time to speak to Horn Review on the topic ofpolitical transitions and national dialogues as it relates to Sudan.

To set the context, could you speak to Sudan’s promising political transition in 2019, particularly as it relates to the various interest and identity groups therein?

figures. In the absence of figures, it is very difficult to say if the rising cost of living will trigger an upheaval in the city or not. The current inflation rate is around 20 percent, plus; this is quite a high number when you analyze it at the household level. Looking at the [CPI] basket of goods provided, some products show an increase and others show a decrease. At this stage, we can say that, yes, it has been challenging for the government to manage inflation, but not at a stage where there are fears of societal upheaval in the country, or in Addis Ababa. Yes, there is inflation but it is, in my view, manageable.

I am not certain whether additional measures are required at this stage as the ones in place seem to be stabilizing the economy.

Horn Review:

Does this include the prices of petroleum, fertilizer, and other consumer goods that we primarily import?

However, the AfCFTA becomes important as it frames the rules of trade, sets the guidelines for the movement of people, determines quotas, and sets standards, especially in the case of nontariff barriers. The AfCFTA intends to abolish tariffs and come to a consensus on removing different kinds of quotas and restrictions. Additionally, who becomes the arbiter or mediator should a conflict arise? And if there is a new invention, how does this invention not be copied elsewhere in Africa? These are the technical deliberations that require negotiations and discussions to get to an agreement.

Our work is to understand and prepare businesses to be part of this Intra-Africa trade. This discussion is between governments, this is clear. On the part of the Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PACCI), we help businesses understand and prepare to join this intra-Africa trade.

Horn Review:

Following up, the comprehensive nature of the AfCFTA makes it such that nations would have to extensively adopt domestic regulations. Do African nations risk delaying the trade regime until they modernize their laws?

These two processes should go hand in hand. One of the purposes of signing up for AfCFTA is to modernize your internal systems. Once countries sign intraregional or international trade agreements, as in the case of Ethiopia, the ministry of trade or other authorities must work to align the internal trade legislation with those of the neighboring countries, African countries, or even the World Trade Organization (WTO). Both the AfCFTA and WTO have guidelines that countries must follow to participate in a beneficiary system. Interestingly, these guidelines help accelerate the rate of modernization of internal systems to be better integrated into the global system.

In the case of Ethiopia, PPP projects can be successful with the government at the municipality level.

Horn Review:

How can the Ethiopian government, and African governments in general, encourage, and facilitate remittance from their global diasporas?

I think we should start with better equipping our population, not only to curb illegal immigration but also to produce a highly-skilled diaspora. If one considered the Ethiopian diaspora in the Middle East, they are largely low-wage employees. Comparatively, there is a higher proportion of Kenyans occupying mid-level and managerial positions. This issue is quite closely related to our education system as much as it is our immigration policies.

Remittances make up a large part of our economy. Hence, states should make it easier for people, at home, to access financial systems and services. We already see incentive systems like lotteries and contests to promote financial literacy in neighboring Somalia, this grows remittance resulting in economic growth.

Horn Review:

What are the merits of public-private partnerships (PPP) for the Ethiopian economy? Is there room for improvement?

In private-public partnerships, we have two large and powerful entities; a government and a business giant. Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam (GERD) is an excellent example of such a partnership. Technically you want to attract PPP for larger projects, and in so doing, governments endeavor for bigger projects. The federal government is interested in large partners because it is too big for small projects and partners. In the case of Ethiopia, PPP projects can be successful with the government at the municipality level. There is, however, always a risk of the joint project being overrun by a private entity. Giant companies and conglomerates, like Total, can strongarm even governments.

Horn Review:

International investors often consider risk and security premiums when considering investing in developing countries. How do international investors circumvent the high cost, and risk, of investing that has been your observation?

Well the basic requirement for any investor, of course, is a return on investment. There are however instances where investors will come in the middle of wars because their companies do mining for example. If we’re talking about a country like Ethiopia, with limited natural resources, the investor would likely opt to operate in an environment that is somewhat safe and predictable, because the business is contingent upon conditions of peace, security, and prosperity. In resource-rich nations, we observe businesses operating in insecure conditions as there is a resource to extract and run away with. In that sense the issue of peace-making is primordial.