Lawmaker Helps Ethiopian Coffee Industry

Just as many Koreans in their middle years had done when they were children, Rep. Choung Byoung-gug of the Bareun Party used to drink powdered milk and eat corn soup given to Korea by allied countries when Korea was an aid recipient. Now, the five-term lawmaker is exploring ways to boost the Ethiopian coffee industry using official development assistance (ODA).

In an effort to build a bridge between Korea and Ethiopia, the coffee enthusiast visited the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa and Yirga Chefe, the city known for its gourmet coffees. Oddly, he realized it was impossible to enjoy high-quality coffee there.

“There is no Yirga Chefe coffee in Yirga Chefe. There was no coffee shop in Addis Ababa Bole International Airport and coffee beans I could buy there were not so good,” he said in an interview with The Korea Times, Tuesday.

He learned the Ethiopian government is supposed to purchase premium coffee beans en bloc and export them. “Due to the policy, tourists and coffee farmers can’t enjoy coffee in the nation where the coffee originated. This hampers the growth of coffee culture,” he said.

Choung’s ODA project aims to create a synergy between Ethiopia’s coffee supply and Korea’s coffee roasting and marketing skills. ” Ethiopia is the fifth-largest coffee producer in the world, but its profit from coffee is only the 10th-largest in the world coffee market,” he said. “On the other hand, Korea has coffee alleys as tourist attractions though the country barely produces coffee.”

He plans to establish a “coffee district” in the old town area of Addis Ababa, where tourists can taste indigenous coffees. The Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) will take charge of educating Ethiopians on management and coffee processing skills, while the Export-Import Bank of Korea (Eximbank) will use its Economic Development Cooperation Fund to build facilities.

Through this project, he is looking forward to creating jobs, regenerating old areas, discovering sightseeing attractions and ensuring sustainable economic development.

This is an unprecedented overseas aid collaboration between the two organizations. So far, projects have been separated, with KOICA in charge of grants and Eximbank handling loans, causing inefficiencies and unreliability. This deep-rooted fragmentation has been regarded as a core reason for inefficiency in ODA.

Previously as a member of the National Assembly Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee, Choung struggled to solve the problem.

“The attempt fell apart in the end, due to egoism of each government body. I realized top-down directions won’t help resolve the problem, so I discovered an initiative that could set a nice example in resolving the problem.”

To give shape to the idea, during his visits he met Ethiopian government officials ― Admasu Nebede, deputy minister of Finance and Economic Cooperation; Abete Setotawe, vice mayor of Addis Ababa; Wondimagegnehu Negara, chief of Ethiopian Commodities Exchange; and Mohammed Shemsu Suleyman, deputy director general of Ethiopian Coffee and Tea Authority.

Last December, Choung invited them to Seoul and held a conference in the National Assembly. Ethiopian Ambassador to South Korea Shiferaw Jarso took part in the event as well.

“We inspected popular coffee streets together including the famous one in Gangneung, Gangwon Province. The officials could grasp the scheme and now they are drawing up a proposal which will be submitted to Eximbank soon.”

Choung, a former culture minister, vowed to complete this project aiming to set a new path for ODA, while providing self-sustainable ways to overcome poverty in the partner country.

 

(c) 2018 Korea Times Co. Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (Syndigate.info).

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