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Ethiopia - India co-operation sweetens
By Abiy Demilew
Ethiopia and India, last Thursday, signed the largest ever loan agreement by India, US $640 million, for the development of the sugar industry in Ethiopia.
The agreement, which mainly targeted Tendaho and Fincha at the moment, enables Ethiopia to boost its sugar industry in the next two years. This was announced at the signing ceremony held at the Hilton Addis Ababa.
Gurjit Singh, India’s Ambassador to Ethiopia, said the commitment to provide a line of credit of up to US $ 640 million over a period of five years to support the sugar industry in Ethiopia is the largest ever line of credit that India has provided to any country so far. “This year the commitment is to provide $122 million and further amounts will be progressively disbursed over the next four years,” the Ambassador said.
Girma Birru, Minister of Trade and Industry, told Capital that the $640 million loan obtained from India will cover 39 per cent of the total sugar development investment project expense. “The remaining 61 per cent will be covered by local banks and the Sugar Development Fund allocated by the government,” Girma affirmed to Capital.
The loan covers significantly the gap in foreign currency demand, according to Girma, in an exclusive interview with Capital.
“The Tendaho factory project, upon completion in two years, will have the capacity of producing 6 million quintals of sugar a year. The dam and sugarcane plantation is funded by the Ethiopian government” Girma revealed.
According to Girma Birru, negotiations are underway to attach two other sugar factories, Wonji Shoa and Metehara, with productivity levels as high as Tendaho and Fincha. “Wonji Shoa, in its current capacity produces 750,000 quintals a year and upon completion of the expansion project, it will be able to produce 2.7 million quintals a year.” Girma disclosed. Fincha will also produce 2.7 million quintals a year, rocketing from its current annual production capacity of 950,000 quintals.
Currently the country produces 3 million quintals of sugar a year. And according to Girma, in two years, this will be boosted to 15 million quintalsa, enabling the sector to join the export items list.
Sufian Ahmed, Minister of Finance and Economic Development, told Capital that the agreement is a giant move towards the development of the sugar industry in Ethiopia and various sector areas connected to it.
“This would enable the country to benefit in meeting the ever increasing local demand of sugar, an employment opportunity for about 80,000 people, transfer of technologies, foreign currency earning from export and substituting 20 per cent of the country’s fuel demand with ethanol gasoline” Sufian told Capital.
The fuel substitution, in its realization, will produce about 100 mw of electric power from the bi-products of sugar processing, according to Sufian.
In an exclusive interview with Capital, Sufian Ahmed disclosed that the country has already started benefiting from Indian investment such as the Hageremariam Mega Power Station and Distribution, a $65 million project. “60,000 people in 16 towns and villages are benefiting from this project” Sufian told Capital.
“The other important thing is that the loan was given as a soft loan which gives us space to pay back” says Girma, “this is not only the biggest ever loan to be forwarded to a country by the Indian government but also the biggest ever loan to be given for a specific project” he added.
Gurjit Singh, India’s Ambassador to Ethiopia, also disclosed to Capital that India’s investment in Ethiopia, besides the line of credit, has now crossed $1 billion. “This agreement is a turning point in Ethio-India bilateral relations which have gained strong momentum” the Ambassador told Capital.
“The sugar Industry is important because India has the right technology and successful experience ready to share”, said Ambassador Gurjit, “this is one of our contributions to Ethiopia as the nation is celebrating the new millennium” he added.
The agreement was signed in the attendance of senior government officials, Indian business people, diplomats, and other dignitaries, at the Hilton Addis’s Ballroom.
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