Mr Kuma believes the economy has the potential to grow more than the 11.4% year-on-year that it has averaged in the last eight years. He tells us: “From our past experiences we have learned that there are immense possibilities to place the economy on a higher growth trajectory by doubling agricultural added value through scaling up the productivity of small holder farmers.”
His transport brief plays a key part in the governments Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) and it is this part of Ethiopia’s developing infrastructure that concerns him most. As he clearly states: “Improving interconnectivity among regions, economic corridors and with neighbouring countries is vital to boost trade, port services and investment.”
Two rail projects are highly promising. A 100km rapid transit link between Addis Ababa and neighbouring towns is being developed as a joint effort of the Ethiopian government and various private sector interests. Also a line to Djibouti is being developed. This is crucial as the port of Djibouti is the nearest major port and goods are currently being transported by road. This new track will boost trade in and out of Addis Ababa and has been prioritized in the GTP.
While rail transport is still very much a work in progress, Ethiopia’s aviation flag carrier, Ethiopian Airlines has become one of the country’s most successful brands. Mr Deriba is obviously proud of this company, which is owned by the government yet independently run: “Currently the number of international passengers being served by Ethiopian Airlines exceeds 4 million with more than 65 international destinations. Ethiopian Airlines is also one of the biggest cargo service providers in Africa.” He also notes that they have played a key role in attracting tourism to the country.
Addis Ababa’s Bole International Airport is the Ethiopian Airlines’ hub and the government has ambitions for it to be a Central African hub, with destinations across the region served by Ethiopian Airlines. The Minister says: ‘Bole International Airport is one of the biggest and fastest growing airports in Africa with a capacity of more than 5 million passengers per year.”
He also points out the strategic advantage of its location in East Central Africa, a region which also has important connections to the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent. Direct flights to Germany have also been increased and there are now seven each week connecting to four main cities. Mr Deriba says, “Germany is one of our first priorities in Europe in terms of attracting tourists and investment.”
Keenly involved in all of this is the Ministry of Transport who plan and implement strategic projects such as those of rail and road infrastructure. The Minister explains the system the Ministry utilises to keep on top of these multiple projects: “We have a system to control and supervise whether institutions responsible for delivering high priority projects do so timely and within allocated resources. The other priority is enhancing the implementation and project management capacity of all involved agencies and private contractors.”
Regarding the future of transport in Ethiopia, the Minister points to technology and knowledge as the tools that must be utilised in order to progress. On the issue of the training of transport personnel, he affirms that “training railway engineers and project managers is a top priority, railway excellence centres have been created to ensure continued supply of trained human resources and various mechanisms have also been designed to transfer knowledge and technology.”
On technology he feels that this will be where much future investment will be directed: “I think the utilisation of IT technologies and intelligent transport systems, IT enhanced traffic and fleet management systems and services will be a major areas of investment in transport.”