Ethiopia urged to ease import, export trade for youth

The Government of Ethiopia is urged to ease its system and allow its growing number of youth to easily engage in import and export trading.

Archaic banking system, customs procedures have been major obstacles for people who are interested to be engaged in import – export trade business, said Abderkader (Abdela) Besher, founder and manager of Bistra Transit, the company which has been in import and export business in Ethiopia since 1991. In an exclusive interview Zoom with on challenges and opportunities of import and export trade in Ethiopia, Mr. Abdela urged the government to modernize its system in customs and banking areas.

“Currently the customs and banking system of Ethiopia is not up to the international standard. It is very difficult for young Ethiopian entrepreneurs to be engaged in international business. It is partly designed to benefit only some selected and often political party affiliated and government companies to have monopoly in international trading business,” he said.

Unlimited opportunities
As the country has already decided to be part of the African Free Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and moving towards joining the World Trade Organization (WTO), doing import and export business in Ethiopia should be simple for the growing number of young Ethiopian entrepreneurs, according to Mr. Abdela.

“Like we see in the neighboring African countries and other jurisdictions such as Dubai, doing import and export business should be easy and modern in Ethiopia,” he said. “If the government makes that easy and open for everybody small or big company, it can create jobs for hundreds of thousands Ethiopians especially if backed by e-commerce,” Abdela said, indicating that last year he has submitted a proposal to Ethiopian Embassy in the United States to introduce Amazon type e-commerce in Ethiopia, which can create hundreds of thousands of jobs for young Ethiopians.

For that to happen, Mr. Abdela advised to the Government of Ethiopia has to stop favoring politically affiliated companies and individuals, end monopolies of Ethiopian shipping lines and Ethiopian Airlines and allow traders to use any shipping line or airline to transport their goods, train customs and banking employees on how efficiently and quickly manage international trade in the 21st century world, among others.

Mr. Abdela, who was forced to move his business to neighboring Djibouti after 2005 accused of supporting the opposition party, has continue engaging in import and export from Dubai and the United States.

After he fully moved to the United Sates three years ago, he has been trying to aware Ethiopians in the U.S. and work with them to properly utilize the tax free import opportunity the United Sates provided to African countries including Ethiopia under its African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) program.

“I have been telling them (young Ethiopian in the United States) not to limit themselves to the usual cab driving and hotel businesses in the United States. There are so many business opportunities for them to be engaged in import and export trade easily using AGOA,” he said.

Doing Business index by World Bank ranked Ethiopia 161st in 2017 and 159th in 2020 out of the 190 countries (economies) of the world included in the survey. After the reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has come to power in April 2018, Ethiopia has been taking several reforms including revising its over half a century old trade proclamation and regulations in banking and the like in an attempt to serve the 21st century businesses.