Ethiopia: Egyptian bank begins feasibility studies in Afar region

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The Government of Ethiopia has approved the lease of 22,000 hectares of land to the National Bank of Egypt (NBE), which intends to invest up to 80 million dollars in agriculture in the eastern African country.

NBE, which officially opened its Addis Ababa Representative Office on March 30, 2010 has already received the land in Afar Regional State, Tarek Amer, the bank’s chairman said.

Egypt and Ethiopia have a strong commitment to enhance their economic relations, the chairman added, and the government of Egypt through its national bank is now pursuing that goal with this deal.

Experts hired by the bank are now in Afar undertaking a feasibility study to assess which agricultural product is best suited for the plot for which it plans to invest between 30 to 80 million dollars, according to Tarek.

“The area is suitable for growing wheat and oilseeds and our experts are now figuring this out in relation to the country’s crop demand,” Tarek said. 

An Egyptian delegation headed by Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif visited Ethiopia in December 2009. The delegation, which included ministers and 26 agriculture companies, met with Ethiopian PM Meles Zenawi and other senior officials.

During the visit, PM Ahmed Nazif expressed his government’s and private companies’ willingness to invest in Ethiopia. PM Nazif told Ethiopian officials about his country’s national bank interest in investing in agriculture in Ethiopia and also about five Egyptian drug companies looking to invest in the Ethiopian health sector.

Ethiopia’s policy shift, since last year to encourage foreign commercial farms, has attracted the attention of other overseas actors. The Government of Djibouti was the first to obtain 3,000 hectares of farm land in Bale, a suitable agricultural zone of Oromia region, located some 400 kilometres south east of Addis Ababa.

Following the Djiboutian move, Karaturi, an Indian company and Saudi Star, established by Sheik Mohamed Al Amoudi, an Ethio-Saudi billionaire with Saudi nationality, grabbed plots with the aim to grow crops and export them to their respective countries.

The National Bank of Egypt is the leading Egyptian bank occupying the 243rd rank among the top 1,000 world banks, and third place among Arab banks in terms of total assets, according to the July 2007 issue of the Banker.

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