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Ethiopia trying to benchmark S. Korea, P.M. Zenawi says

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi (Yonhap News)
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi (Yonhap News)

ADDIS ABABA (Yonhap News) ― Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said Thursday that his government is seeking to attract more investments from South Korean businesses in a bid to create jobs for youth and industrialize the nation’s agriculture-based economy.

In an exclusive interview with Yonhap News Agency days before President Lee Myung-bak arrives here for the first-ever visit to Addis Ababa by a South Korean president, Zenawi said the visit is “very important not only for Ethiopia, but also for the whole of the continent.”

“We would like to see more South Korean private investment in agriculture, in manufacturing, (and) in mining,” the prime minister said, noting that Ethiopia is trying to benchmark South Korea, which was poorer in the 1960s than many African nations but transformed itself into one of the world’s most dynamic economies.

“We tried to learn from the experience from South Korea. So for me, South Korea is not just an old friend of Ethiopia, it is also an example for us and for Africa of how to fight poverty and develop in a successful fashion,” Zenawi said.

“I think there are many opportunities for investment,” Zenawi said. “We can benefit from Korean expertise and technology and investment by Korean companies” in the areas of electricity, renewable energy resources and information technology.

Zenawi hailed President Lee for playing a key role in formulating a set of principles and guidelines to help the Group of 20 major economies work collaboratively with developing nations for shared growth.

The so-called “Seoul Development Consensus” was announced at the end of the G20 summit hosted by South Korea last November.

Ethiopia was one of five special guests for the Seoul summit, and Zenawi attended the gathering.

“We, Ethiopia, are really highly appreciative of the Seoul Development Consensus because it gives Africa a new opportunity for development,” the prime minister said.

President Lee “is now coming to Ethiopia as one of the key architects of the Seoul Development Consensus, which is of huge significance to Ethiopia and Africa,” Zenawi said.

“Because of these stories, I think the South Korean president’s visit is not only historic, but also of great significance to Ethiopia and to Africa,” Zenawi said.

Ethiopia is the last leg of the three-nation tour by President Lee to the African continent. South Korea has vowed to continue deepening ties with African nations as it seeks to widen access to the resource-rich continent.

With its strategy of actively attracting foreign investments, Zenawi said, Ethiopia’s economy has achieved double-digit annual growth over the past eight years and could maintain the growth rate over the next decade.

“We can maintain this for another 10 years. If we do that, then we will become a lower middle-income country in 10 years,” Zenawi said.

President Lee’s visit to Ethiopia will include cooperation talks with Zenawi, a visit to a monument commemorating the country’s participation in the 1950-53 Korean War and a speech at Addis Ababa University. Lee also plans to visit two villages for volunteer work.

Ethiopia sent thousands of troops to help South Korea repel invading troops from North Korea during the Korean War.
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