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Ethiopia: Center of Regional Integration in the Horn of Africa

Ethiopia: Center of Regional Integration in the Horn of Africa

The Horn of Africa is gaining a new framework, a framework for the economic and political geography to benefit its own people and the region at large. It is filling the valleys of mistrust and war with the waters of mutual understanding and shared interests that can hasten the integration of the Peoples of the Horn and salvage their lives from the past storms of collective destruction.

Ethiopia has all-too-often been portrayed as a center for famine and chronic conflict on the stage of the theatre of international affairs.  The Horn of Africa has similarly been depicted as a region wallowing in the mire of poverty, disarray and war, and trapped into continuing in a state of disrepair. It was always a misleading view. There has never been a shortage of challenges but there have always been opportunities to climb out of these disasters. And now Ethiopia, along with its neighbors, is starting to construct the architecture for the new economic and political integration in the Horn, allowing itself and the region to exploit the opportunities that can lift people out of the quagmire of poverty and bring a permanent end to instability .             

The obvious core element to build and perpetuate regional integration is infrastructural development. One aspect of this is the extensive road construction Ethiopia has launched to link up producers and consumers of the East African region, and indeed beyond. This will have the immediate impact of addressing the poor infrastructure which has manacled sub-Saharan African and developing countries in their trade, their investment potential and even in their tourism.  Addis Ababa has been moving forward to connect Ethiopia's border cities with Sudan, South Sudan, Djibouti, Somalia, and Kenya with tarmac roads. Another is the series of projects for railway construction which have been launched to connect the countries of the Horn. These include Ethiopia's plans to extend the rail links between Djibouti and Addis Ababa to others cities in Ethiopia and to the Sudan and South Sudan borders, as well as the proposed link from Addis Ababa into Kenya. Ethiopia is also strongly supporting Kenya's plans to link its new Lamu port to South Sudan. All this will have the effect of revamping the participation of all these countries in regional and international markets. Above all, they will help the peoples of the region concentrate on the spheres of reducing poverty, of combating drought, and of working on development and prosperity.

One  problem for the foundation of mutually beneficial cooperation between  foreign investment partners and Africa in general and the Horn in particular has been  the absence of  any regional campaigns that clearly define  the investment, tourism and trade potential opportunities.  Here, Ethiopia has also been sowing the seeds of a good image for Africa and underlining the benefits of investing in the continent. . One typical example was Dr. Tedros Adhanom's recent speech at the Global Citizen Festival in Central Park, New York.  In a speech that electrified his listeners, he tore down the negatively charged and damaging images of Africa so long projected, revealing the way that Africa's renaissance is burying the dead leaves of poverty and war in partnership with its partners and allies.  As he indicated, Addis Ababa is firmly devoted to attracting a real and significant inflow of investment, business developments and foreign tourists to Africa, to speed up the integrated and sustainable development of both Ethiopia and the region in general.

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