Ethiopia's Premier to Woo Diaspora Investors as He Visits U.S.

(Bloomberg) -- Ethiopia’s prime minister arrived in the U.S. for meetings with members of its quarter-million-strong diaspora community in a bid to woo investment for Africa’s fastest-growing economy.

Abiy Ahmed’s first U.S. trip since taking office in April comes as he shakes up orthodoxies at home, promising a multi-party democracy and to privatize state monopolies, while making peace with long-time foe and neighbor Eritrea. He will hold meetings in Washington D.C. with the Ethiopian business community, religious leaders, think tanks and the public until Saturday, before heading to Los Angeles and Minneapolis, according to Ethiopia’s embassy.

The embassy said tens of thousands of people are expected to attend public meetings in the three cities. More than a quarter of a million people of Ethiopian descent live in the U.S, according to the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington-based think tank.

Abiy may be hoping to tap into a rich source of foreign exchange for Africa’s second-most populous country. Ethiopians abroad sent back some $4.6 billion last year -- about a quarter of the nation’s annual foreign-exchange earnings -- and this month the government opened accounts for a so-called Diaspora Trust Fund in which overseas communities were invited to donate for development.

Abiy faces the task of bringing an end to several years of sporadic regional protests over alleged land grabs and political neglect that threatened to detail the boom in the state-planned economy. Earlier in July, he said Ethiopia needs $7.5 billion to finish current infrastructure projects and is also battling foreign-exchange shortages.

Zemedeneh Negatu, a U.S.-based investor, said last week that the diaspora now has ways to partake in opportunities in Ethiopia, following pledges to partly privatize companies such as Ethiopian Airlines Enterprise and Ethio Telecom Corp.

“Ethiopia is the fastest-growing economy in Africa,” he said at an investment forum in Washington D.C. “If that is the kind of trajectory we are looking at then we need to be prepared as the diaspora to take advantage of that.”

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