Czech PM says Ethiopia can offer Czechia much more than just good coffee
Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala left Prague on Friday for an eight-day trip to Africa, during which he is visiting the east and west African countries of Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire. Although primarily a trade mission, the trip is also intended to deepen cooperation in other areas such as security and migration.
Addressing the Czech-Ethiopian Business Forum in Addis Ababa this weekend, Prime Minister Fiala told the assembled business leaders that Czechia needed to deepen trade relations with Ethiopia beyond importing the country’s legendary coffee.
The main purpose of the prime minister’s trip is to conclude new contracts and find new business opportunities, so accompanying him is a roughly twenty-member-strong business delegation representing several sectors, as Jan Rafaj, president of the Union of Industry and Transport, which organised the trade mission, details.
“There are healthcare companies, modern technology and engineering companies, as well as defence industry firms. There are companies that have already established themselves on the African market in some way, as well as companies that are only now discovering these markets and have the potential to find new customers in these countries.”
Following the Czech-Ethiopian Business Forum, Mr Fiala had a meeting with his Ethiopian counterpart Abiy Ahmed in Addis Ababa, after which he said it was clear that Ethiopia was interested in cooperating in the area of defence. Ethiopia has just come out of a two-year civil war that ended in November last year, during which at least 100,000 people died, and the situation, especially in the border regions, is still volatile.
Prior to departing for Ethiopia, Mr Fiala explained the importance of Africa to Czechia as a trade partner and said businesses needed to update their view of the continent.
“We are a country whose economy is based on exports. Therefore supporting exports is important because that means also supporting our own economic growth. Africa has huge economic potential and there are a lot of opportunities there. It’s an important continent and we have to stop looking at it as something uninteresting and far away and start taking it seriously as an important partner.”
But although trade and the economy is the primary purpose of the visit, the prime minister also has other goals in mind, saying that the continent should be a partner to the European Union for security as well as economic reasons. Mr Fiala highlighted the importance of Africa to Czechia and Europe in areas of strategic security such as reducing dependence on Russia and China for minerals and other raw materials – and said Africa is key to helping Europe solve the problem of migration.
“There are several questions that need to be discussed with leaders of the countries on the African continent. One general topic for Europe is definitely migration and the question of how to stop illegal migration flows to Europe.”
However, he was also careful to emphasise that it isn’t just a one-way street – Czechia is also important to Africa. For example, during his meeting with the Ethiopian prime minister, he highlighted the work of Czech hydrologists in mapping Ethiopian water resources, which he stressed as being particularly important given the already visible effects of climate change.
The prime minister is now in Kenya, where he spoke at the opening of a Czech-Kenyan business forum in the capital Nairobi on Monday about the possible deepening of cooperation between their two countries in the defence, energy, healthcare and agriculture sectors, as well as establishing new contacts in the fields of information technology and space research.