Malta and Ethiopia: Exploring the new frontier

Source: WhosWho

Date: 08/03/2024

By: Edward Bonello

Maltese resident Ambassador in Addis Ababa Ronald Micallef tells WhosWho how Maltese businesses may benefit from vast opportunities in Sub-Saharan Africa.


“The time is ripe for Malta to turn its gaze southward, towards Africa,” says Ronald Micallef, resident Maltese Ambassador in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Ethiopia has been identified by the Maltese government as Malta’s strategic partner in Africa – and for good reason. Home to the seat of the African Union, Ethiopia could very well be the next frontier for ambitious Maltese businesspeople, with a trade delegation to Addis Ababa being organised by TradeMalta, taking place next week, from 11th-15th March.

Africa, with its rich tapestry of cultures, economies, and landscapes, has long captured the attention of the world for trade and investment purposes. Yet, for Malta, the past thirty or so years, have been characterised by EU membership and harnessing the consequent opportunities of the European Single Market. It has not always been so, however.

“Historical ties between Malta and North Africa have flourished over the decades with several Maltese ventures operating with success in the MENA region. It is now time to look towards Sub-Saharan Africa, a region which is rich with potential.”

“Addis Ababa is the same distance as the crow flies from Malta to Glasgow,” Mr Micallef remarks, highlighting the geographical proximity that beckons Malta towards Africa. Moreover, Malta and Africa share a history marked by vibrant exchanges, including direct flights to Ghana in the 1970s and strong links with African liberation movements.

As Malta charts its course towards Africa, Mr Micallef acknowledges the need to dispel stereotypes and misconceptions. Africa, often portrayed through the lens of poverty, is in reality, a continent with opportunities that are of interest to Malta.

“60 per cent of the African population is under the age of 25, with birth-rates continuously climbing. Africa truly stands on the cusp of a demographic revolution, presenting vast opportunities for trade and commerce, poised to become a hub of economic activity in the coming years.”

“Africa is literally the huge giant on our doorstep,” Mr Micallef asserts. “The opportunities to supply goods and services in these countries are immense, a gateway to important opportunities for trade, investment, and cultural exchange,” Mr Micallef notes.

Central to Malta’s strategy for Africa is the recognition of the continent as a unified market, akin to the European Union, giving Malta a special mission to accomplish – one which it is well familiar with.

“As it has done in the past, looking north towards Europe, acting as a gateway of opportunity, Malta can be the bridge between an aging Europe and a youthful Africa, facilitating trade and investment across borders,” Mr Micallef explains. “Maltese businesses are being offered the opportunity to become the conduits for service providers that can cater for a market which is expected to continue growing well into the future.”

The opening of the Maltese Embassy in Ethiopia two years ago marked a significant milestone in this journey, signalling Malta’s commitment to deeper engagement with the vast continent. In fact, Mr Micallef is optimistic about the prospects for a new chapter of Malta-Africa relations, acknowledging the need for a nuanced approach, tailored to the diverse needs and realities of African nations.

A few Maltese household names have already set roots, and in certain cases established themselves convincingly in the market, even gathering accolades for their stellar performance.

“It has not been easy, naturally, as prior to the opening of our Embassy, a support system for Maltese enterprise was still lacking. However, over the past two years we have been creating a platform on which Maltese businesses can be supported.”

For Mr Micallef, Maltese businesses operating in niche sectors such as Digital and Education have a great deal of opportunities to explore, in a country which is looking at the future with optimism. Businesses would do well to be careful of antiquated stereotypes and traditional paradigms, however.

“Africa has a way of fascinating visitors. For example, 60 per cent of Parliamentarians in Rwanda are female, which is a notable achievement with implications for how we conduct business. Hence, it would be well-advised for businesspeople not to assume anything. That is what we are here for, to help and guide after all,” Mr Micallef reassures.

As Malta implements an African Strategy, it must navigate the complexities of the African landscape with sensitivity and foresight. The potential rewards, Mr Micallef believes, far outweigh the challenges, paving the way for a new era of collaboration and growth.

“Next week’s trade delegation which is being organised by TradeMalta in partnership with the Ethiopia Investment Commission together with the Ethiopia Chamber of Commerce is set to underscore and build on the strengths Malta has to offer, especially in fields such as Education, IT, Construction, Health, and several others,” Mr Micallef illustrates.

He ends by saying that “With political bi-lateral relations between Malta and Ethiopia developing remarkably well over the past two years, the fundamentals are all in place, and ready to make way for mutually exciting developments in trade and commerce.”

Tags: Ethiopia | International business | TradeMalta |