Addis Ababa University Aligning Engagements with Ethiopia’s Vital National Interests: President

In collaboration with the Ethio-Logistics Sectorial Association (ESLA), an organization that seeks to understand, support and advocate the requirements of logistics service providers, users, and government, through appropriate legislation, policy, processes, procedures, and operational performance, AAU today launched a forum on Ethiopia’s ports strategy and the concomitant opportunities and challenges, with participants drawn from a broad spectrum of professional and corporate backgrounds.

In his opening address, H.E. Dengue Boru, State Minister at the Ministry of Transport and Logistics said, the issue of port access diversity has become a pressing subject for Ethiopia as a landlocked nation with a vibrant economy that is set to show rapid growth, as forecasts seem to show. In view of the cardinal role of maritime transport for sustainable mobility, sea ports are a critical component of a national development policy agenda. More than ever before, the thorny issue of a cost effective, reliable, and competitive maritime services system has become, economically and politically, of strategic significance for Ethiopia as a regional powerhouse, with a growing population and foreign trade. The State Minister elaborated that, as the global landscape is shifting, with new shipping routes and ever evolving trade patterns; Ethiopia must embrace these changes to remain competitive and ensure its continued economic prosperity.

The state minister stated that reliance on any single port is not an option and it is imperative that Ethiopia explores the regional maritime ecosystem and make informed and carefully weighed choices. The state minister further said that careful navigation of the balance between core cargos handling capability and venturing into new and familiar territories, building strong partnerships with regional transport authorities as well as technology providers, will go a long way in addressing the port services challenges.

There are no easy solutions, as there are numerous challenges such as infrastructural limitations, bureaucratic inefficiencies, regulatory complexities, and logistical bottlenecks, the state minister disclosed, adding Ethiopia needs to find enduring solutions that are primarily in its interest as well as consider the broader geopolitical contexts based on shared strategic interests.

For his part, President of Addis Ababa University, Samuel Kifle (PhD) said, as Ethiopia ponders over its ports policy as a subject linked to its development, Ethiopian universities should demonstrate their essential role in advancing the development of their country. Ethiopia needs its universities to be the backbone of its economic prosperity and to help it adapt to the relevant geopolitics and realities of world trade to-date.

The president further said the university considers it a cardinal duty to address the nation’s national interests-including security, prosperity and social wellbeing-and will periodically hold intelligent conversations on such important topics drawing on the knowledge and expertise of its scholarly community and the university’s partners.

Five panelists from AAU and different stakeholder organizations that included Dr. Berhanu Denu, Assistant professor of Economics, AAU; Dr. Matiwos Ensermu, Associate Professor of Logistics and Supply Chain Management and Head (VP) of the President Office; Ato Siraj Abdulahi, Deputy CEO for Maritime service at ESL; Ato Temesgen Yihune, Acting Deputy Director, LTO and W/ro Elisabeth Getahun, President, Ethiopian Logistics and Sectorial Association and CEO of PanAfric-Global Plc shared their thoughts and perspectives and answered questions raised by the audience. In common, all panelists mentioned the recurrent theme that Ethiopia’s drive towards diversifying access to maritime services is not a matter of changing port service providers but is an assertion of legitimate rights and pursuit of self-interest in the search for a cost effective, reliable, and competitive maritime services system that is strategically suitable for the expanding economy and foreign trade.