Frerik Kampman, Netherlands Embassy, on demanding Ethiopian youth:

"Mismatch between expectations and reality is causing unrest"

Since late March 2018 Ethiopia has a new Prime Minister: Abiy Ahmed. According to many, a promising new government was formed that is doing a lot right. However, this optimism has not trickled down to local level yet. In the Oromia region, for example, where many Dutch flower farmers are based, the youth is very demanding, which is causing unrest at some farms.

"There is a mismatch between expectations and reality that is causing unrest", explains Frerik Kampman, Aid and Trade Officer at the Netherlands Embassy in Addis Ababa. "For example, there were rumors spreading among workers regarding pay raises of 100 percent. Then if they receive a raise of 10 to 20 percent, it still results in disappointment."

The way the youth is dealing with this disappointment is troubling farms. "These are definitely issues that growers and employees should talk about, but in reality the protesters often resort to tense stand-offs and the use of intimidation and even violence. That is unacceptable. It is something a company cannot prepare for, and it's influencing their businesses heavily.”

The Netherlands Embassy is therefore working hard to deliver this message to the government. "The Ethiopian government wants to attract new investors. We therefore stress the importance of protecting current investments and keeping in touch with them. Salary disagreements, for example, should be resolved in a peaceful manner. Obviously we also expect from investors that they comply with national rules and regulations and international standards."

Fortunately, there are also several farms that are not having any difficulties, Kampman points out. "Upholding a good relationship with the community and communication towards the community is essential and is bearing fruit."

The Netherlands Embassy is stressing and transferring this message to potential investors as well. "There are a lot of opportunities in Ethiopia. However, before diving into this country, it is important to learn about all factors that can influence your company. We therefore advise potential investors to talk with current investors. All in all, Ethiopia is still a country full of potential. When you have some patience and perseverance, and keep good relations with the local community, promising results can be achieved.”

To get a good overview of the floriculture industry in Ethiopia and the ups and downs over the last years, see a recently published article in Dutch newspaper NRC Click here to read it (In Dutch). In this article, several Dutch and Ethiopian growers express their thoughts on the current situation and the future of flower production in Ethiopia.

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