Addis Abeba – In the backdrop of the recent visit to Ethiopia by president of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Addis Standard has been given an exclusive opportunity to interview the UAE’s minister of state in the country’s foreign affairs ministry, Sheikh Shakhboot Nahyan Al Nahyan. With the exception of a few, the state minister has responded in writing to questions put forward by Addis Standard including but not limited to GERD and Ethiopia-Eritrea relations.
AS: How do you describe the current status of bilateral relations between Ethiopia and the UAE? What are the priorities the two countries are working on mutually?
Sheikh Shakhboot Nahyan Al Nahyan: This year marks the 30th anniversary of official relations between our two nations, a period of time that has seen tremendous growth in both countries. Our two nations share a deep bond and are closely aligned on various regional and global issues, from climate change to regional stability, covering areas as diverse as economic investment, agriculture, renewable energy, culture, industry and advanced technology.
We are open to further collaborative opportunities with Ethiopian businesses, with platforms like the UAE-Ethiopia Business Advisory Council playing a crucial role in supporting both UAE investors and Ethiopian businesspeople. In 2022, non-oil trade between our countries reached USD 1.4 billion and the UAE invested USD 2.9 billion across numerous Ethiopian sectors including pharmaceuticals, aluminum, food and beverages and chemicals.
The UAE and Ethiopia continue to work together on strategic projects and initiatives, designed to enhance growth and development for the mutual benefit of our two peoples. During the official visit of UAE President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, 11 MoUs were signed in areas including the economy, health, education, environment, technology, culture and services.
With our unique geographical position and leading business environment, the UAE serves as a gateway to the world and is home to thousands of African business people including Ethiopian nationals whose contributions to the country are deeply valued and appreciated. There are numerous Ethiopian establishments located in the UAE, from the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Abu Dhabi to the Africa Institute in Sharjah, and many establishments in Dubai.
The UAE looks forward to welcoming an official Ethiopian delegation to the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28) in November to further discuss crucial issues concerning climate change. We remain committed to supporting stability and growth in Ethiopia as one of Ethiopia’s key partners when it comes to renewable energy. In January this year, Masdar signed an agreement with the Ethiopian government to build a 500 MW solar energy farm in Ethiopia to help the country diversify its energy supply. This project will eventually result in a 2,000MW total capacity.
AS: Besides Ethiopia, what is the role of the UAE in making the wider Horn of Africa region stable and secure, for example Sudan?
Sheikh Shakhboot Nahyan Al Nahyan: The UAE is a nation committed to building bridges with all countries in order to promote economic development and enhance peace and security, and in this regard attaches great importance to the stability of the Horn of Africa and the wellbeing of its people. In 2018, the UAE played a vital role in brokering a historic peace agreement between Ethiopia and Eritrea after 18 years of diplomatic deadlock.
Prevalent issues in the region from climate change to increased instability continue to concern the UAE. In regards to Sudan, the UAE has called for an immediate ceasefire and urged reaching a peaceful solution to the conflict between the concerned Sudanese parties, with the stability of the country prioritized as well as support for its people.
The UAE continues to send vital humanitarian aid to Sudan and neighboring countries; to date, the UAE established a field hospital in early July in Amdjarass, Chad which has treated over 4,147 patients so far, and over 2,730 tonnes of medical, food and relief materials have been sent since the outbreak of conflict in late April. Furthermore, the UAE has provided USD 50 million in aid as humanitarian support, especially for the most vulnerable groups including the sick, the elderly and women and children.
The UAE seeks to provide all forms of support to alleviate humanitarian suffering and has consistently supported the political process and efforts to achieve national consensus towards forming a government. The UAE will continue to support all efforts aimed at achieving security in Sudan and enhancing its stability and prosperity until a ceasefire is secured.
In pursuit of ensuring international peace and security, the UAE has always sought to mediate between parties to the conflict, and help towards reducing tensions. We consistently seek to enhance cooperation and resolve differences through dialogue. Over the next 50 years, the UAE will advance this vision by continuing to play a constructive role throughout the region, and beyond.
AS: UAE’s leader enjoys close relations both with PM Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia and president Isaias Afewerki of Eritrea – is there anything that the UAE doing to cement stable Ethio-Eritrea relations?
Sheikh Shakhboot Nahyan Al Nahyan: The UAE played a pivotal role in brokering a historic peace agreement in 2018 between Ethiopia and Eritrea after 18 years of diplomatic deadlock. This aligns with the country’s policy of standing for diplomacy over conflict, partnerships over unilateralism, and dialogue over confrontation. We remain firmly committed to urging respect for the principles of good neighborliness and non-interference in the internal affairs of states.
Moreover, we believe that the coming period requires a focus on dialogue and cooperation to reach innovative and lasting solutions to current challenges. These principles have always been part of the UAE’s path since its founding and continue to be followed today under the leadership of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE President.
The UAE enjoys deep and distinguished relations with all countries, a reflection of our values based on openness, partnership, building bridges, and working to achieve the common interests of countries and peoples in ways that contribute to strengthening international security and stability. The country’s foreign policy seeks to build upon the interconnectedness of interests amongst countries in promoting peace, prosperity, and the wellbeing of peoples.
AS: We understand that the UAE is trying to mediate between Ethiopia and Egypt on the GERD issue. Any progress in that regard? What is the UAE trying to achieve?
Sheikh Shakhboot Nahyan Al Nahyan: The UAE has consistently stressed the importance of constructive dialogue between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia to overcome their differences regarding GERD. We believe that efforts should continue according to international laws and norms, in order to secure the rights of all three countries to their water security and reach a solution that is accepted by all.
A successful conclusion of negotiations on the GERD is within reach and this also represents an opportunity to enhance and accelerate regional integration, while bolstering cooperation and sustainable development.
AS: Finally, what should we expect as deliverables of the recent visit by the UAE president?
Sheikh Shakhboot Nahyan Al Nahyan: Eleven MoUs have been signed during this official visit, covering areas including health, economy, education, environment, customs, government development, industry and advanced technology, finance and others. This visit provided an additional opportunity to discuss ways in which the special relations between the UAE and Ethiopia can further enhance for the mutual benefit of both our peoples.
In discussions between President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Ethiopian Prime Minister His Excellency Dr. Abiy Ahmed, the two leaders addressed critical issues facing the international community, including climate change, economic growth, and sustainable development.
On the sidelines of the visit, numerous agreements were signed to further reinforce the bilateral commitment to joint action in sustainability and food, water, and energy security. A memorandum of understanding between TALC Investment and the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture pledges to increase wheat production near the Omo River Basin to build domestic capacity and enhance food security in Ethiopia.
Moreover, a memorandum of understanding between DP World and the Ethiopian Ministry of Transport will advance Ethiopia’s logistics infrastructure, thereby enabling the government to hold strategic reserves of key commodities and contributing to future-proofing the country from supply chain disruptions. Another agreement will see Abu Dhabi Ports work with its Ethiopian partners to develop fuel storage and distribution depots in different locations in Ethiopia, ensuring that key facilities, businesses, and communities have access to fuel that powers livelihoods.
Further memoranda of understanding were signed including an MoU for Government Development and Modernisation Experience Exchange, an agreement on mutual assistance in customs matters between the Federal Authority for Identity, Citizenship, Customs and Ports Security, and the Ethiopian Customs Commission, as well as an MoU between the Ethiopian Investment Commission and the Federation of Abu Dhabi Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
The signing of the agreements reflects the depth and stability of the special relationship between the UAE and Ethiopia, ties which continue to grow across various fields, steadily driving comprehensive development in both countries. AS