BIOGRAPHY Zemedeneh is a globally experienced business executive who has worked with clients in several African countries including South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, and Mozambique. He is currently leading a corporate finance team advising a large investment group from the Middle East on a $500 million real estate and hotel investment project in Africa. Zemedeneh, who is an American citizen with Ethiopian roots, has lived and worked in the U.S., Brazil, Argentina and the Middle East. He holds a business degree from the U.S. and received his CPA from Washington, D.C.
Q. There's a lot of buzz around agribusiness in Africa, but is it actually a good investment?
Absolutely. Food security now is a global issue, whether in China, India or the Middle East. Our Ernst & Young office in Addis is currently advising several investors from the Middle East, especially Saudi Arabia, who are investing tens of millions of dollars in the agro industry in Ethiopia. They're given incentives by their governments to go out and look for farmland around the world -- big, agro-industrial farmlands -- and Ethiopia is one of their target countries.
Some of the agricultural produce will be used for local consumption, but most will be exported back to the investors in the Middle East or other parts of the world. This also benefits the host country too, as it builds hard currency earnings, and means we can solve the traditional problem of market access. There are also opportunities to move up the value chain -- if you go to a number of African countries, you will see fruit juice for sale made in the UAE, or Saudi Arabia, but the raw produce came from Africa -- this could be produced locally.