Indonesian Ambassador to Ethiopia Al Busyra Basnur.
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Indonesia’s Ambassador to Ethiopia Pushes for Deeper Bilateral Trade, Invest Ties

ADDIS ABABA – Ethiopia and Indonesia officially established their diplomatic relationship in 1961. Three years later, Jakarta opened its embassy in Addis Ababa and deployed a resident ambassador a year late. It has since maintained diplomatic ties by continuously sending its ambassador to Ethiopia, making it the only Southeast Asian country to do so.

The current Ambassador Al Busyra Basnur continued this historic precedent when he arrived in Addis Ababa on March 11, 2018, after serving in the US, the Philippines, and Italy, to name a few.

However, his first few days of deployment were not filled with good memories, according to Al Busyr who is also Indonesian ambassador to Djibouti and the African Union.

“I began my ambassadorship to Ethiopia a day after the Ethiopian Airlines plane crash happened. It was an unfortunate coincidence. One Indonesian citizen died in the accident,” he has said in an interview with the Ethiopian Monitor.

Excerpts:

It’s been four and a half years… what has changed since?

Ambassador Al Busyra: I now feel Ethiopia is my second home. I have made a lot of friends. And I would like to wish all my Ethiopian brothers and sisters a New Year full of joy, happiness, and prosperity.

My special message is that the start of a New Year is not only for celebration but also it is the right time to contemplate, evaluate, and review what we have been doing in the past and what we are going to do in the future.

The two nations established diplomatic relations six-decades. How do you evaluate its current status?

Very well. In international issues, Ethiopia and Indonesia always work hand in hand and support each other.

Politically, I think Ethiopia is getting much better. Of course, there are problems in some areas – which also happen in many other countries. No country is immune to problems, conflict, and challenges but that is the art of being a democratic country.

Now, the cooperation between the two countries is getting better. The relationshsip has gone beyond government-to-government. People to people, university to university, and youth to youth is currently growing.

At least 26 Memorandum of Understandings have been signed between the universities of the two countries. Next month, some mayors of Ethiopian cities including Gondar will travel to attend trade expo in Indonesia.

What is your focus right now to boost the bilateral ties?

For the past four and half years, I have been doing a lot of things to enhance the relations between the two countries in politics, economy, culture, and more.

My personal belief is that people to people is much more important than even government to government. The government-to-government relationship is like a bridge and the powerhouse, mostly focusing on how to build relationships and cooperation in all sectors. 

But everything starts from people to people relations. Efforts to establish these types of relations currently take more than 50% of my daily activities.

Can you be specific?

If you are talking about our mission program, the economic relationship is number one agenda. I always encourage Indonesian businessmen to get in touch with their Ethiopian counterparts so as to make connectivity and hopefully increase our economic relationship.

Currently, we have six Indonesian companies investing in Ethiopia. Many more Indonesian and Ethiopian businesses are also involved in trading activities.

I am still working hard to make our bilateral trade direct because right now the trade activity is going through a third party – Dubai. I think if our two business people link up, we can make a direct connection which can produce much better results.

Are there ongoing efforts to make that work?

One of the venues we are using to create the link is a major trade expo that Indonesia holds annually. In 2018, only 11 Ethiopian and Djibouti businesses took part in the trade expo. When I came here, the number increased and a delegation of 23 Ethiopian business executives participated in the 2019 expo.

The participating businesses from Ethiopia further grew last year to 79, and they were the biggest African delegation to attend the expo. Previously, Nigerians were the leading participants.

For the upcoming trading expo in October, I am working hard to invite many more Ethiopian businesses to attend the expo and create links between the two cournties business communities.

You mentioned investment as well.

Many Indonesian companies expressed to me their interest in coming here to invest and do business with Ethiopians when I was home last July.

Before that, three Indonesian companies even came here to explore the investment opportunities and were in talks to start. However, the COVID-19 pandemic temporirly cut off the communication and negotiations.

I am now facilitating for their return. I hope they will come and rejuvenate and continue discussion and negotiation.

What is the major challenge for those currently active here?

It is much better compared to what it was a few years ago though there are still some challenges, especially with regards to the foreign currency issue.

I talked to bosses of major Indonesian companies like Indomine, B29 soap and detergent factories, and garment companies in Hawassa IP a few months ago. They expressed challenges like a shortage of foreign currency and the issue of getting limited access to money injected from their headquarters via the local currency. But the situation seems getting better now and the amount has increased which is good news for them.

Over the last few years, what surprised me is most Indonesian companies were a little bit disappointed because of some regulations and limitations which make their import sometimes halted. But, recently the companies started to export to Ethiopia and got lots of orders in the US and new markets in Europe.

They also started to export and also got lots of orders in the US and new markets in Europe.

What is your take on BRICS and Ethiopia’s entry into this bloc?

This is a very good opportunity for Ethiopia to expand and develop even faster than expected not only for the bitterness of Ethiopia domestically and internationally. Besides, it is also good for the economic and political diplomacy of Ethiopia.

You are among a few Addis Ababa-based foreign envoys who travel a lot ousdie the capital. What is your reason to do that?

As an ambassador, I always told my friends that the potential to cooperate in any given bilateral relations is outside capital cities. Addis Ababa is, of course, a place where policy and regulations are initiated. But more than 50 percent of the potential for diplomacy and international cooperation are in the regions. So I love to travel to the regions.

When I came here though, I was shocked to learn that not many of my fellow diplomats knew about the regional investment capacity. Sorry to say this and it was not meant to criticize my colleagues. This may be due to many foreign missions in Addis Ababa not being interested in going around the region to see what is really happening there.

Of course, there are those doing the same but I can say that I am the most active ambassador traveling outside the capital and even Ethiopian officials say this to me whenever I meet them.

And you travel arround by car or ?

Mostly I love to travel by car because I can see the real thing on the side of the road, the village, and a small city in between. This allows me to see and get information that would otherwise be missed. When you go through remote areas, you hear the voice of the people there – that is the voice of the truth.

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