Seven Days Update Vol. 19 No. 51

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The lawyer of the Muslim group arrested on charges of alleged terrorism has seriously protested against the broadcast on ETV of the documentary film He said the documentary film is itself an act of terrorism. The transmission by the government media of such a sensitive issue is an act of terrorism (Ethio-Mihidar, Feb. 13).

The government is seeking "concessional loans" from development banks for roads and power lines and is "aggressively promoting" investment from Europe and the Middle East, State Minister of Finance Abraham Tekeste said. Natural resources, improving infrastructure and cheap labor and power mean there are "bankable" opportunities in areas such as chemicals and agro-processing, he said. Africa's second-most populous nation plans to spend $ 7.8bio developing its economy this fiscal year as part of a five-year plan that ends in mid-2015. Investments are to be made in rail, power, sugar, roads and housing projects as Ethiopia seeks to become an industrialized middle-income nation by 2025 (Bloomberg, Feb. 11).

The Export-Import Bank of China loaned Ethiopia $475m for railways in June, according to Finance Ministry data. Ethiopia's national savings rate as a proportion of gross domestic product increased to 16.5% from 12.8% last year as business saved for investment, bank branches were opened, people were educated about the benefits of saving and new instruments were offered, including bonds to fund what will be Africa's largest hydropower project, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, Abraham said (ENA, Feb. 10).

The Ethiopian Grain Trade Enterprise said it has distributed over 3.2 million q wheat to flour mills, consumer associations, hospitals and public institutions in the last six months in its efforts to stabilize the market. The enterprise's General Manager, Berhane Hailu, told that 86% of the wheat was distributed to flour mills, 13% to consumer associations and the remaining to hospitals and public institutions. The manager said imported wheat significantly contributes to stabilizing the market and reducing the inflation rate to one digit. He said the government has imported and distributed five million q of wheat in the last two years (ENA, Feb. 10).

Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd (PGCIL) said that it will sign a $16m management contract with Ethiopia Power Company for two years. "Ethiopia Power Company is an integrated firm with generation and distribution. PowerGrid will take up the key positions and manage the company for two years to make it more efficient and expand,'' PGCIL Chairman R.K. Nayak told media persons. PowerGrid has also applied for wire business licence for few districts in Odisha, Nayak said. PGCIL targets to connect the Southern Grid to the National Grid by March 2014. Currently, there is asynchronous connection of 4,000 MW connecting the Southern States to the rest of the nation (Business Line, Feb. 12).

Terra Global Energy Developers, LLC (Terra), the first US wind energy developer to enter Ethiopia's growing wind energy sector, today announced the launch of a 400 MW wind energy project in Debre Birhan, Ethiopia. Located approximately 75 miles north of the capital Addis Ababa, the project is being developed on a build and transfer basis for the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCo). Construction of the project is planned to begin in 2014." Since October of 2012, Terra has been collecting wind data and characteristics on the Debre Birhan site as part of a year-long technical and financial feasibility study (Ethiopian Business News. Feb. 14).

Ethiopia, like its fellow Great Rift Valley countries, has enormous geothermal energy potential. However, the costs involved and the need for skilled expertise have, until now, been major obstacles. In late January, the Development Bank of Ethiopia announced that, over the next five months, it will offer an initial $20m to kickstart geothermal energy projects in the country's private sector as part of a programme funded by the World Bank. A further $20m is expected to be made available at a later stage. Last May, the World Bank granted Ethiopia $40m to help accelerate the development of renewable energy projects in the country's private sector. The money will help cover the costs of early exploration and drilling activities. When drilling proves successful, the bank will invite private investors to lead geothermal projects and develop power plants in Ethiopia (The Guardian, Feb. 13).

In the last decade, Ethiopia's flower industry has grown from nothing to one of the dominant players on the international market. Zelalem Messele, an Ethiopian flower grower and chairman of EHPEA, the Ethiopian Horticulture Producer Exporters Association, said Valentine's Day is very important for the country's flower sector. About 85%of Ethiopia's flowers are exported to Europe. Flower exports in 2012 were valued at more than $210m. This year, the amount is expected to be more than double, at $525m. Industry growth and government-provided tax breaks and loans have attracted many foreigners to set up flower farms in Ethiopia. Of the 90 flower producers in the country, more than half are non-Ethiopians - many of them Dutch. About 1,500 hectares in Ethiopia are used to produce flowers. The fast-growing industry has directly created about 85,000 jobs and roughly 110,000 jobs indirectly. Women take up 80% of these jobs. Kenya is currently Africa's biggest flower exporter and Ethiopia is second. As Ethiopia aims to surpass Kenya in the coming years, it is focusing on penetrating the North American market (VOA, Feb. 14).

The Ethiopian Wild- life Conservation Authority (EWCA) said that it has earned 18.5m birr from local and international visitors. Fhe authority's Public Relations and Information Director, Mebratu Haile, said that using different media outlets, websites, brochures and international trade fares, the authority has promoted the country's unique and peculiar wildlife to international and local tourists. The authority could not get the 24m birr it planned to obtain in the first half of this budget year due to the international economic crisis and seasonal fluctuation of tourists, Mebratu said. According to him, out of the expected 53,000 international tourists 16,911 have visited the sanctuaries. Mebratu further indicated that, out of the expected 36,000 local tourists 10,490 have visited the sanctuaries. Regarding controlling illegal activities in sanctuaries, the authority has been working closely with different stakeholders - the Federal Police, woreda administrations, the militia and the community as a whole. It has also offered legal awareness training for 52 wildlife traffickers who were caught at Bole International Airport (WIC, Feb. 11).