Ashenafi EndaleAugust 30, 2020


Simegn Degu is the Director for Cement Industry Research and Technology Development at the Chemical and Construction Input Industry Development Institute (CIIDI). He has been leading several research projects that seek to solve bottlenecks in the cement industry and pave the way for the sector’s development. Simegn believes several factors, including artificial shortages and corporate management problems have contributed to the recent spike in the price of the commodity. He believes the recent administrative measures taken by the government are not going to give a long-term solution to the problem. EBR’s Ashenafi Endale sat down with him to understand what went wrong in the market, especially over the last six months.

Ashenafi EndaleAugust 15, 2020


Yohannes Ayalew Birru (PhD) is Deputy Director General and Head of Macroeconomic and Financial Policy Studies Cluster, at the Policy Studies Institute in Ethiopia. Between June and November 2018, he served as Executive Director of the Ethiopian Economic Policy and Research Institute.

Yohannes also served at the National Bank of Ethiopia for about 27 years, of which he served as the Vice Governor and Chief Economist of the National Bank of Ethiopia, a position he held for about nine years between 2009 and 2018. In total, Yohannes has 30 years of cumulative experience in the areas of finance, macroeconomic policy and economic growth. He holds a PhD in Economics from the University of Sussex, United Kingdom. EBR’s Ashenafi Endale spoke to him about the problems in the financial sector.

Ashenafi EndaleAugust 15, 2020


This interview was published on EBR’s 89th edition, in August 2020. The publication ran two interviews: a pro-GMO article from the Ethiopian Agricultural Research Institute (EIAR) and an argument from the Ethiopian Biodiversity Institute (EBI). However, following the publication, EIAR and the Ethiopian Environment, Forest and Climate Change Commission (EFCCC) claimed EBI’s interview affects efforts of ensuring food security. The final paragraph of this version of the interview was excluded from the previous publication due to space shortage. EBR editorial apologizes for any inconveniences caused.

‘The Unwise Use of GMO Would Destroy Indigenous Biodiversity’

Melesse Maryo (PhD), Director General of the Ethiopian Biodiversity Institute

Melesse Maryo (PhD) has been Director General of the Ethiopian Biodiversity Institute (EBI) since 2016/17. Before assuming his current position, he used to be Vice President for Research and Technology transfer at Dilla University. He is an Agro-ecologist, specializing in agro-biodiversity. He earned his PhD from Addis Ababa University (AAU). He is one of two bureau members (the other from Ghana) representing Africa in the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Conference of Parties (COP), and International Treaty for Plant Genetic Resource for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA). He is also a Board Member of the Ethiopian Agriculture Council and Gulele Botanical Garden.

What is your view on GMOs?

For over 80Pct of Ethiopia’s population, agriculture is the only source of livelihood. If you destroy biodiversity, you destroy the human population. There is a high probability that the unwise use of GMO would destroy indigenous biodiversity. Once we lose our natural biodiversity by employing underdeveloped technology, we cannot recover it. Those countries pushing for GMOs are 100Pct dependent on technology. For example, Korea can keep living with Samsung’s revenue. But Ethiopia has no such alternative once it destroys its agriculture.

Biotechnology represents an unnatural breeding system. For instance, experts may use a fish gene to produce cold-tolerant tomato. They make Humulin, a diabetes medicine, from human genes. Golden rice is made of carotene, which is metabolized and converted by the human eye to prevent night blindness. Golden rice is for malnourished children. It also enables people to see in the dark. This is what charities like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation give to children as vitamin droplets. This involves introducing plant genes into the animal genome.

Ethiopia is moving to adopt GMOs because we are unaware of our own biodiversity wealth. Ethiopia’s biodiversity has drought-resistant, pest-resistant, highly productive, nutritious, medicinal, and many other forms of genetic resources. Ethiopia is one of the eight origins and centers of biodiversity on earth. There are around 250,000 accessions of plant genetic resources conserved in gene banks in Africa. Ethiopia’s accession for crops and horticulture, without including the forest accession, constitutes one third of Africa’s total collection. Ethiopia has huge biodiversity resources. There are close to 5,600 coffee varieties and over 6,000 high altitude plant species in Ethiopia. Our biodiversity in animals has not been well explored taxonomically but its abundance is undeniable.

Ethiopian famers grow enset, beans, mango, cassava, and many more on small patches of land in their backyard. They ensure their own food security on less than a quarter of a hectare. Farmers of Wuhabit, around Raya in Tigrai, took drought resistant variety of wheat seed from the Ethiopian Biodiversity Institute (EBI) and succeeded in producing sufficient yield. Using participatory selection and breeding, they started to grow high-productivity wheat that uses minimal moisture. In a workshop organized by the Ministry of Agriculture, I remember hearing a report that mentioned over 60Pct of improved chicken breeds imported from abroad die early. If so, we better opt to use our own well-adapted breeds such as that in Amaro of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s Region (SNNPR). In this area of the country, there is a local chicken variety called ‘Amaro Doro’. It is so big to the extent that you struggle to carry it.

If Ethiopia succeeded in agroforestry practices as aspired, agricultural productivity and food security could reasonably be ensured. Irrigation and mechanization are also underdeveloped in Ethiopia. This implies that modernizing Ethiopia’s agriculture needs a holistic approach, not just reliant on GMOs. Research is a process that takes years. However, we haven’t exhaustively worked with indigenous varieties.

In my view, GMOs should be considered the last resort. They may affect the soil and indigenous crops. Encoded with pesticide genes, GMOs have a potential to kill other beneficial insect and microbial species that might be necessary for the ecosystem. For instance, it kills rhizobium which constitutes as a critical biofertilizer. There are reports showing that GMO plants can also kill butterflies and other insects. GMO promoters argue that it is ‘specific.’ However, they are not sure of those claims themselves. When GMO genes kill some insects and microbial forms, the natural food pyramid will ultimately be affected. Therefore, it poses a critical danger to the natural ecosystem.

Even the developed world (European countries) has finally decided to come back to nature. I participate on the meetings of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), representing Ethiopia as a focal person. Under the umbrella of the convention, the world is currently working on a ‘nature-based solution’. This year’s theme of CBD is ‘our solution is in nature.’ This shows that the world is trying to find the way back to nature. However, GMO promoters like the USA still do not support this idea.

My fear generally is that GMO will destroy Ethiopia’s biodiversity that evolved over the last 10,000 years, surviving every kind of threat. Now we are to destroy that on the spot with a technology developed twenty years ago. We cannot recover the indigenous biodiversity, once it goes out of our hands.

Ethiopia’s proclamation shifted from denouncing GMO to promoting it between 2009 and 2015. What was the reason behind the sudden change of policy?

It is the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR), emphasizing food security and maximizing agricultural productivity, that is in favor of using GMOs. I watched on Youtube institutions such as parliament, EIAR, and the Ethiopian Bio-Technology Institute (EBTI) visited Indian GMO farms; and this probably laid the ground for the amendment of the proclamation without proper public consultations. The Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA) also had a role in the move towards GMOs in Ethiopia. From the get-go, I believe the establishment of the ATA was in relation to endorsing GMOs in Ethiopia. Some Ethiopian agricultural experts are also behind the scenes. I cannot see government putting the GMO topic up for debate in universities, the media, and with the public at large.

EBI was not consulted properly by government institutions and this closed the possibility to look for alternatives before going to GMOs. They did not even talk to us on this topic. I even nagged and begged them to work with EBI first.

Why is GMO promoted in developing countries while advanced countries are banning it?

USA, unlike the majority of countries around the world, is not a ratifier of the CBD protocols. It rejected the Paris climate change accord. USA is not a member of the CBD. So, why should Ethiopia adopt GMOs even at a time when some EU member countries, that have sophisticated technologies, are turning their back against it?

How far can EBI can go to discourage GMOs in Ethiopia, with perspective to protecting indigenous biodiversity?

EBI’s director and the deputy cannot influence GMOs, but our researchers can. I cannot contradict a law approved by the parliament. Civil societies and researchers can oppose the GMO law. EBI has the authority to go and assess the impact of GMOs on the environment, once GMOs are commercialized and cultivated in open farms. But to this point, government has been telling us GMOs are in confined trials and we have no information whether it has been commercialized or not. If farmers complain or we discover that GMOs are affecting the environment, I can give a press announcement, boldly. To do so, I must see it first or have it assessed by our researchers. EBI’s proclamation allows us to follow-up and control any impact on indigenous biodiversity and the environment. Thus far, we have no evidence or information GMO has been commercialized because the process is closed, even for us.

9th Year • August 1 – 15 2020 • No. 89

Ashenafi EndaleAugust 15, 2020

Tadesse Daba, (phD) Director of Biotechnology Research at EIAR

Tadesse Daba (PhD) is Director of Biotechnology Research at the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR), where he worked for over 20 years. He holds a PhD in Enzyme Biotechnology from Kyoto University, japan. Apart from witnessing the state of biotechnology in labs around the world, especially in USA and Europe, Tadesse currently works with major biotechnology institutions in Africa, including: the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) based in Kenya, International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (known by its Spanish acronym CIMMYT), International Potato Center (CIP), and Michigan State University, among others. Tadesse underlines GMO is the best and safest instrument for countries like Ethiopia to detach from the vicious circles of poor agricultural output and food insecurity.

Ashenafi EndaleJuly 30, 2020

EABSC Gazes at the Sunshine Across from the Discomfort of the Eye of the Storm

Daryl Wilson, CEO of East African Bottling Share Company (EABSC), arrived in Ethiopia just last year. Originally from south Africa, he was Managing Director of Nairobi Bottlers of Kenya for nine years before coming to Ethiopia. With 27 years in the business, Daryl Wilson has seen the troughs and the picks of the industry even before the turn of the century. He is already overseeing construction of two epic factories in Hawassa and Sebeta with an outlay of a staggering USD300 million. The two factories will triple the volume of coke products in Ethiopia, besides launching new products. He says Ethiopia is the fastest growing beverage consumer market in Africa. Nonetheless, the humorous CEO is not all that excited. The company already lost over 15Pct of its sales revenue due to the new Ethiopian excise tax regime and COVID-19. EBR’s Ashenafi Endale spoke to the CEO on various issues.

Ashenafi EndaleJuly 15, 2020

Mussie Mindaye, Ethiopia’s Top Expert and Negotiator in AfCFTA

Muse Mindaye has been Ethiopia’s top expert and negotiator in the African Continent Free Trade Agreement negotiation forum since the beginning of the effort to create a single African market. He is also director of Multilateral Trade Relation and Negotiation at the Ethiopian Ministry of Trade and Industry. An Economist in profession, Mussie predicts the hour of Africa’s economic redemption against globalization is at the door, only clouded by COVID-19. EBR spoke to him to further understand what Ethiopia would benefit from AfCFTA and how the future will look with the implementation of the agreement.

Tewedaj SintayehuJuly 15, 2020

State Minister of Finance on COVID-19, Economic Reforms

With a PhD in Political Economy, and Masters in International Policy earned from the University of Maryland and the George Washington University in Washington D.C, in the United States, respectively, Eyob Tekalign is currently serving Ethiopia as a state minister of Finance. Since graduation from Mekele University with a BA in Economics in 2000, he has been actively engaged in public service leadership in Ethiopia and overseas. He was a minister counselor at the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington D.C., advisor to the Ethiopian governors of the IMF and World Bank Group, and government and public affairs consultant to Dow Chemical, a Fortune 500 multinational. Eyob had previously worked for intergovernmental organizations such as the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. He had also worked for the International Finance Corporation (IFC), World Bank’s private sector financing arm.



Yared Molla has been in the insurance industry for over 27 years. Before joining NyalaInsurance seven years ago, he worked for Ethiopian Insurance Corporation. After assuming the role of CEO at Nyala Insurance, he has stirred the company to the forefront of the insurance business as it became the most profitable insurer in the country for almost half a decade. Under his leadership, Nyala grossed a profit of ETB184 million in 2019/20, which is a record-high in the private insurance industry and ETB15.5Pct higher compared to the preceding financial year. Its gross written premium also reached almost half a billion birr, while having an asset of over ETB2.1 billion. Enthralled by his performances, African Insurance Organization (AIO) bestowed up on Yared the prestigious ‘CEO of the Year’ award for his unparalleled leadership capability and outstanding contributions to the insurance industry. EBR sat down with him to clear the recent confusion over the coverage of pandemics under life insurance policy and his career in the insurance industry.

Samson BerhaneJune 15, 2020


Tsegaye Kemtsti joined the insurance industry almost half a century ago. After joining the sector at his first employer, The Imperial Insurance, he spent five decades to culminate his career as Chief Executive Office of Awash Insurance, which he founded and led for a quarter of a century, until his departure earlier this year. Although he did not push his formal education further than the College Diploma he received from Addis Ababa Commercial College during the Imperial regime, Tsegaye has the entire history of the sector for an experience. He has also proven himself as one of the most successful CEOs in the insurance industry.

Ashenafi EndaleJune 15, 2020


David Phiri (PhD) is FAO Sub-regional Coordinator for Eastern Africa (SFE) and Representative to the African Union (AU) and to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). Prior to this post, Phiri was FAO Sub-regional Coordinator for Southern Africa and Representative to Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Botswana. He joined FAO in 1991 as Policy Economist and then served in the Cabinet of the FAO Director‐General. EBR’s Ashenafi Endale sat down with him to understand threats to the food security situation in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa. Originally from Malawi, David Phiri specialized in Agricultural Economics.

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