Empowering Growth: Ethiopian Business Communities in South Sudan

By Markos Tekle Rike(PhD) 

Ethiopian business communities have been pivotal in shaping the business landscape of South Sudan. Their contributions extend beyond mere financial investment; they have been instrumental in transferring business skills, fostering economic growth, and engaging in corporate social responsibility initiatives that uplift local communities. This symbiotic relationship between Ethiopian entrepreneurs and the South Sudanese economy reflects a legacy of shared expertise and mutual benefit.

Historically, Ethiopia has been home to diverse business communities, including Armenians, Greeks, and Yemeni migrants, who played crucial roles in shaping the country’s business environment. These communities not only contributed financially but also shared their business acumen, laying the groundwork for future generations of Ethiopian entrepreneurs. Today, this tradition continues as Ethiopian citizens’ venture into various sectors of the South Sudanese economy, enriching it with their expertise and entrepreneurial spirit.

One of the most significant contributions of Ethiopian business communities in South Sudan lies in the transfer of business skills and know-how. Through their engagement in various service sectors, such as retail, real state, hospitality, logistics, and construction, Ethiopian entrepreneurs have imparted invaluable knowledge to local business owners and workers. This knowledge exchange not only enhances the efficiency and competitiveness of South Sudanese businesses but also fosters a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation.

Moreover, Ethiopian business owners actively reinvest their income back into the South Sudanese economy, driving economic growth and development. By expanding their operations, creating job opportunities, and supporting local suppliers, they contribute to the country’s prosperity. This reinvestment not only benefits the business owners but also stimulates economic activities in the communities they serve, thereby fostering sustainable development. However, investments in the productive sector such as agriculture and industry which is the key for sustainable development is not at desirable level and it should be seriously taken by all concerned.  

Furthermore, Ethiopian entrepreneurs demonstrate a strong commitment to corporate social responsibility, particularly during times of crisis. For instance, during the COVID-19 lockdown, many Ethiopian business owners in South Sudan went above and beyond to support the community. They provided essential supplies, such as food and medical equipment, to those in need and donated resources to hospitals and schools. Additionally, initiatives like the donation of thousands of books to primary schools in October 2022 underscore their dedication to education and community development.

Recognizing the importance of fostering a conducive business environment, the establishment of the Ethiopian Business Communities Chamber of South Sudan is a significant step forward. The establishment of Ethiopian Business Communities Chamber has officially been inaugurated on March 9, 2024 in the Presence of H.W the Mayor of Juba City, Ethiopian Ambassador to South Sudan and senior officials from Ministries of Trade, Industries and Investment of the Republic of South Sudan as well as the Vice Chairman of the National Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture of the Republic of South Sudan. This chamber serves as a platform for Ethiopian entrepreneurs to collaborate, share resources, and advocate for their interests. By facilitating networking opportunities and promoting responsible business practices, it strengthens the bond between Ethiopia and South Sudan and enhances bilateral trade relations.

Moreover, the chamber plays a vital role in promoting Ethiopian products in South Sudan and attracting more investors to the region. Through marketing campaigns, trade fairs, and business delegations, it showcases the quality and diversity of Ethiopian goods and services, thereby expanding market opportunities for businesses from both countries. In this connection, it’s imperative to emphasis the role of road connectivity between Ethiopia and South Sudan to foster economic and commercial integration for the mutual benefits of the people of both countries. The road construction agreement has been signed between Ethiopia and South Sudan that link Western Ethiopia with the Greater Upper Nile of South Sudan. While awaiting the final approval from the South Sudan Parliament, the technical teams from both countries have discussed technical details on the construction of the road that connects Pagak with Paloch. The construction of this road would have far reaching impacts in connecting the economies of both countries and stimulating the local economies hence cementing peace and stability in parts of the regions of both countries.

Additionally, the chamber’s focus on corporate social responsibility ensures that Ethiopian businesses contribute to the well-being of local communities in an organized and impactful manner. By coordinating philanthropic efforts and community outreach programs, it maximizes the positive impact of these initiatives and addresses pressing social needs.

Furthermore, the chamber serves as an advocate for its members, promoting their rights and interests in accordance with legal and constitutional frameworks. By providing legal guidance, resolving disputes, and engaging with government authorities and National Chamber of Trade, Industry and Agriculture of South Sudan, it fosters a favourable business environment that encourages investment and growth.

In order to promote the business ties even to the higher level, Ethiopia government is planning to organize business and investment forum in Juba around the 2nd week of May 2024. This forum is aimed to promote business and investment opportunities between Ethiopian and South Sudan. The event focus in promoting South Sudanese investment potentials to the Ethiopian investors and promote Ethiopian manufacturing industries products to the market of South Sudan. The details of the event will be announced in few weeks. In this juncture, invitation is placed for all interested business partners to attend the event.   

In conclusion, Ethiopian business communities play a pivotal role in driving economic growth, fostering social development, and strengthening bilateral relations between Ethiopia and South Sudan. Through their contributions in various sectors, transfer of skills, and commitment to corporate social responsibility, they exemplify the transformative power of entrepreneurship. As partners in progress, Ethiopian entrepreneurs and the South Sudanese economy stand to benefit from continued collaboration and mutual support.

The writer can be reached at: markostekle@gmail.com

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