30 Apr

Ethiopia Mulls Fertilizer Plant Tender as Army Deal Reviewed

Ethiopia’s government may cancel a contract for a fertilizer plant awarded to its military-industrial conglomerate and offer it to international tender, the Public Enterprises Ministry said.

The possible revision of the contract is the latest sign that Ethiopia’s new prime minister is fulfilling a pledge to purge “favoritism” toward the security forces.

The state awarded the Yayu project in Ethiopia’s restive Oromia region to state-owned Metals & Engineering Corp six years ago, but since then less than half the work on the complex has been completed, ministry spokesman Wondefrash Assefa said.

“It may be that we will cancel the agreement and we will continue with another contractor, but the decision is not reached at this time,” he said by phone Friday from the capital, Addis Ababa. “It may be that others will participate including foreign companies.”

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to office April 2, succeeding Hailemariam Desalegn, who quit as prime minister in February after failing to end protests in the Amhara and Oromia regions that began in 2015 amid demands for greater economic inclusivity.

Abiy has vowed to ensure more even wealth distribution by reducing “favoritism” toward the security forces.

Office Cherifien des Phosphates, a Morocco-based fertilizer producer, may be among companies that could be considered to take over the project, Wondefrash said. OCP has an interest “to produce fertilizer but we’ve not reached a conclusion on this issue,” he said.

Craig Atherfold, a spokesman for OCP, said he passed a request for comment to a colleague.

Metec is run by the Ethiopian military, one of Africa’s largest armies, and has been involved in projects including the $6.4 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and a series of sugar developments.

Officers connected with the rebel movement that overthrew Ethiopia’s junta in 1991 have dominated senior government positions for the past quarter century.

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