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The Chinese government is set to build a USD 60 million dollar complex in the heart of Addis Ababa in a bid to foster growth in Ethiopia’s bamboo industry.

An agreement between the Chinese and Ethiopian governments proposes to grant the Chinese International Center for Bamboo and Rattan (ICBR) a five-hectare plot in the capital’s Gotera neighborhood for the construction of the training complex.

The Addis Ababa City Administration has already issued a temporary land lease of the plot to Ethiopian Forestry Development (EFD), which is partnering with ICBR.

Teshome Tessema (PhD) is in charge of all things bamboo at EFD.

“A team from China will construct the center,” he told The Reporter. “The team has collected all the data necessary for a feasibility study.”

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The International Bamboo and Rattan Organization (INBAR), EFD and ICBR are currently exchanging documents to help complete the process of transferring the acquired land through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

EFD estimates the construction to cost USD 60 million. It is working with the City Administration to clear and ready the five-hectare plot for construction.

The ‘Africa-China Bamboo Training Center’ is part of the Ministry of Agriculture and EFD’s 10-year plan for bamboo industry development introduced in 2018.

The plan’s short-term objectives entail the creation of 74,000 hectares of bamboo plantations, half a million jobs, establishing clusters, and facilitating the large-scale industrialization of the industry. EFD heads want to see this done by the end of this year.

Other action plans include the marketing of bamboo products through government policy, as well as the recruitment of a pool of bamboo experts at various levels of government to facilitate industry growth.

Implementation and performance reports indicate that while EFD is excelling in terms of its plantation goals, research gaps and an inability to introduce institutionalized structures to lower levels of government have been an obstacle.

The gap in research is seen in job creation, establishment of clusters, and in conducting a five-year resource assessment.

EFD is also falling short in expanding the structures of bamboo units. It wants to see one million direct and indirect employment opportunities created in the bamboo industry by the end of the 10-year plan, but lacks the tools to measure the impact of its projects.

The monitoring and evaluation aspects of the strategy entails the success of this target must be examined either by an outsourced consultant audit or through a rigorous research carried out by the institution’s own monitoring and evaluation team.

Teshome remains hopeful that several new jobs have emerged through the Agriculture Ministry’s forestry development initiatives, but is unable to specify just how many.

“We have faced financial constraints,” he said, “that prevent us from knowing how much is exactly required for collecting and analyzing primary and secondary data from all stakeholders at regional states, government institutions and NGOs. This calls for financial resources we do not have.”

EFD hopes to get it done through an overarching five-year performance evaluation. However, the financial constraints could force it to shift to a 10-year evaluation instead, according to Teshome.

A 2018 INBAR and EFD nationwide resource assessment revealed the prevalence of 1.47 million hectares of bamboo plantations, comprising 60 percent of Africa’s total coverage.

However, efforts to establish clusters to enable the efficient usage of this vast resource by the development of supply chain, minimize wastages, simplify and reduce logistics costs, has hit walls.

A lack of research once again appears to restrain the Forestry Development from putting out a definitive yes or no over the results of its efforts.

Industries, especially small and medium enterprises, specializing in bamboo products are found in Benishangul-Gumuz Regional State, Hawassa Industrial Park, Modjo and areas surrounding Addis Ababa.

EFD data also shows the establishment of clusters in south west Ethiopia – an area with immense natural bamboo coverage – was not implemented.

Lack of investment opportunity creation and an inability to work together on the part of government institutions are blamed for the shortfall.

Despite the data, Teshome argues bamboo is a quickly growing industry.

“The statistics we have on hand indicate most small and medium enterprises across regional states and two city administrations are working with bamboo,” Teshome told The Reporter.

He claims up to 95 percent of these enterprises are utilizing bamboo as an input.

There are no more than five firms working with bamboo at a larger scale. Three of these are located in Addis Ababa and its surroundings, and one in Injibara, Amhara Regional State.

There are new large-scale firms on the verge of starting production in Hawassa, Modjo, and Debre Markos.

Teshome says the lack of funding is pushing EDA to postpone the second-round resource assessment.

“We’ll do it when we find a willing partner to support us,” he said.

EFD is also having difficulties in pushing to facilitate the marketing of bamboo through government policy. A public recruitment policy for bamboo products has been tabled to the Ministry of Agriculture, according to Teshome.

“Officials at the Ministry are now examining the policy, and discussions on its capacity are still ongoing,” he said.

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