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Interview with H.E. Teshome Toga Chanaka, the Ambassador of Ethiopia to China

May 19, 2020 saw the first edition of an interview series that CABC is doing to promote investment opportunities in African countries from the perspective of officials of Embassies in China. 

We were honored to be joined by H.E. the Ambassador of Ethiopia to China, Mr. Teshome Toga Chanaka as our first guest. During the interview, H.E shared information in regard to what Ethiopia and Africa have been doing in order to ease down the negative impact of COVID 19 on Africa’s health and economy. He highlights the importance of global unity and sharing in this course and commended government’s efforts and the public’s compliance to the policies put in place.


1. Prediction on the pandemic’s spread and economic effects

-  If numbers continue to increase and have serious negative effects not only on fragile economies but could also greatly affect the rest of the world

- Therefore, the government is doing a lot to contain it in the shortest possible time

2. Government measures: two sets of measures

- Protective measures: introduction of “State Emergency”, border closures, social distancing, PPEs, 14-day quarantine, etc.

-  Economic measures: introduction of a “Post COVID19 Economic Recovery Programme” plan (in partnership with partner with major economies like China, Europe, USA)

3. Suggestion to Chinese investors

- This is a temporary difficulty and challenge; life will certainly go back to normal

- Ethiopia remains open for business. The “Post COVID19 Economic Recovery Programme” plan includes a solid plan for foreign investment

4. Lessons learned from China’s experience that could inspire Ethiopia/Africa

A strong unity of purpose, the compliance and adherence to government measures, voluntarism and sharing. The habit of voluntarism and sharing, however, already exists in Ethiopia and the rest of the continent.


Question #1   the Covid 19 was confirmed to have reached Ethiopia on 13, March 2020. As of today, the number of cases in Ethiopia's 306 with a recovery rate of 37%. What’s your prediction on the development of the pandemic and its effect on Ethiopia's economy, and perhaps on the rest of Africa as well?

Well. Through the first case confirmed case of Covid was observed in Ethiopia on March 13. Gradually the infection spread is increasing, as of today we have 372 confirmed cases as we go along and our capacity to test increases, obviously, we expect that the number of cases would go up. Now what it means is that it will have an effect on our health infrastructure, it will have an impact on our economy. The best for us is for Africa and for Ethiopia is to really focus on protection and controlling as well as in the shortest possible time. And if you don't do that, then COVID 19 case stays long with us, certainly the effect would be devastating. The fragile economies and fragile health systems of Infrastructure of Africa which will be not in the interest of not only Africa, but I think the rest of the world. So our hope is to contain it in the shortest possible time, and we have, a chance to do that because we have experiences elsewhere, like we have experienced here in China, how they contained the virus in the shortest possible time, we have experience of course in other parts of the world. So that's what we hope and expect to do.

Question #2   the Covid 19 virus is highly contagious, but governments are taking measures and running essential activities under reasonable control so that the lives of the people and the economy are both safe. What effective measures has Ethiopia taken?

We have taken I think two sets of measures, one is protection and controlling the virus

First, we have awareness of creation as to how people can protect themselves that is by way of social distancing, by way of the use of protective gears, by way of staying at home, those who can stay at home, will stay at home.  So, these are some of the protective measures we have introduced. Meanwhile, of course, the government has also introduced, well we have closed down our borders, and of course we have introduced 14-day quarantine for those who arrive in Ethiopia. And related to this one, change of behavior was very difficult in Ethiopia like in most African countries, so we have had to introduce “state of emergency”.

The second aspect of our measures is how do we really try to balance protection and controlling of the virus and at the same time, balance with not totally closing or shutting down the whole economy, and so we are trying to balance both. It's not an easy thing because we have millions of Ethiopians who actually depend on daily labor for their livelihood, so balancing is, I think, the right word to use here. So we're doing both, but we are also focusing on “Post Covid Economic Recovery Programme”, and in order to do that I think the government has taken several initiatives, first, what kind of economic interventions, policies do we design because we have to reprioritize our investments, secondly, how do we really partner with major economies like China, Europe, USA and so on and so forth? And global Solidarity, and global collective unity, I think it becomes also very important, these are precisely, the measures that have taken in Ethiopia.

Question #3   Right now, many projects have just halted, but we believe that the pandemic would eventually pass. What would you like to say to the Chinese companies already operating in Ethiopia and those planning to conduct business there?

To those who are already operating in Ethiopia, I know this is a temporary difficulty and challenge we are facing, but certainly life has to go back to normal, we cannot sustain and shutdown and the closing of other economic activities.

Like here in China, as things improve, as we contain the virus, certainly we should go back to our economic activities and to production. And I encourage them to continue working with us, with the Embassy, with the government, and as soon as things are back to normal, they should rebound on their efforts to they should redouble their efforts to compensate what we have lost in the last couple of months.

For those who intend to invest in Ethiopia, I would suggest that in terms that we are open in Ethiopia for business, we have an economic plan for “post Covid recovery”. And we provide what we call “one stop shop service for foreign direct investment”, one aspect of post Covid recovery programs attracting foreign direct investment, and in that regard you will find a very strong partner in the government and in the people of Ethiopia, so I welcome you to Ethiopia. You should think and plan what kind of investment you'd like to promote in Ethiopia.

Question #4 As a person living in China, here in Beijing, you may have witnessed the changes during the last 4 months. People experienced a long period of indoors isolation and difficulty in purchasing masks as well. So, do you have any suggestions for the people in Ethiopia that may be experiencing something similar?

Staying at home is a very difficult thing, but the choices between having Covid, and then of course protecting yourself, so definitely you have to make a choice of the lesser evil which is staying at home.

I have never experienced a this one one would be as difficult as I witnessed here. Now, from the Chinese experience, I think the message I 've been sending and communicating with Ethiopia is that:

First, the nation needs a strong unity of purpose. Everybody should come together and then rally behind, I think, what the government does, the health workers, media, business community, enterprises, everybody should come together. Because this affects private sector, I think, government, I think, every sector of the society, that's why unity of purpose is very important and we have seen that unity of purpose here in China.

The second is that it is a way the Chinese public actually complied with policy measures that were put in place like the government knocked down a city of 11,000,000 residents as we have seen Beijing, a very vibrant and dynamic city, was empty literally. So, the compliance and adherence to government measures, I think, played a very important role. People have strictly followed the protective measures health experts as well as government experts, actually, suggested, by way of protection. So, that is the second and important message I conveyed to Ethiopians.

Third is voluntarism. We have seen many young Chinese who have been providing services to those who are not in a very strong position, so the issue of voluntarism, they have been serving, I think, students in University, they have been serving, communities, they have been serving in locally persons, so the concept of voluntarism, I think, was very important. And we have the tradition in Ethiopia also.

Forth message is sharing. I think, it, again, goes with a unity of purpose on this one. We know, in terms of health, this affects everybody, but in terms of economy, I think there are hardest hit parts of our community, so those who have the opportunity we need to share with each other. And the culture of sharing is there in Africa, so I would also like to encourage Ethiopians to continue sharing what they have with their fellow Ethiopians with their fellow Africans.

Question #5   CABC is organizing an online marathon relay race. Chinese companies having business in Africa are organizing the staff teams to take part in this race. Would you please say something to the participants and the audience?

Well first let me take this opportunity to thank and congratulate CABC. CABC has been doing an excellent job by bringing businesses from both China and Africa. I encourage them to continue playing that role. Second the very fact that they have taken an initiative to organize such marathon at this time - athletics exercise at this time I think is also a very positive and encouraging initiative and then I would like also to command and encourage Chinese enterprises who are doing business in Africa to be an active participant in this one.

Now the importance of athletics is obvious, and of course the message of having such an event during this time of Covid to spread, I think sends also by itself a very important signal. And finally, of course, I personally, once, I was a minister of youth, sports and culture and I have come to know the importance of daily exercise for our immunity, for our social activities and I think to lead healthy life, we all need to have one or the other form of exercise in our daily lives.

And finally, of course I 'd like to thank all the participants in this event and of course once again I 'd like to congratulate CABC for organizing this very timely athletics event by joining hands with Chinese enterprises.

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