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Foreign-owned Enterprises Targeted in Ethiopia's Oromia Region

October 12, 2016

Salem Solomon

Foreign-owned companies have become the latest targets of violence during the unrest in the Oromia region of Ethiopia.

Government officials are worried the violence could derail the country's economic growth, but analysts say addressing protesters' grievances is also key to maintaining the nation's upward economic trajectory.

"You cannot just focus on building the economy and talk about double-digit growth," said Anuradha Mittal, executive director of the Oakland Institute, a California-based policy group. "An economic model which is built on denying democracy, denying people basic human rights, isn't sustainable, and it will collapse."

Eleven factories and about 60 vehicles have been burned and destroyed in recent weeks as anti-government protests spread across the region, according to reports on state-owned television.

Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn has declared a six-month state of emergency to restore order, but hinted Tuesday it might be lifted early if the region could be stabilized. At a news conference Tuesday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Addis Ababa, he conceded the need for democratic reforms in the country, saying 49 percent of the population was not properly represented in the parliament.

Merkel voiced support for dialogue in the country and sympathy for the demands of the protesters. She relayed concerns from German companies about Ethiopia's business climate. Germany is one of the largest consumers of Ethiopia's products, such as textiles and coffee, buying 30 percent of coffee exports, according to Germany's foreign office.