Obama visit to Ethiopia brings fresh eyes to the country, say Seattle Ethiopians

Elias Godifay, an Ethiopian immigrant who teaches accounting at North Seattle College, says he hopes that Obama's upcoming visit to Ethiopia will help people see the country as a trade partner. (Photo by Goorish Wibneh.)
Elias Godifay, an Ethiopian immigrant who teaches accounting at North Seattle College, says he hopes that Obama’s upcoming visit to Ethiopia will help people see the country as a trade partner. (Photo by Goorish Wibneh.)

President Barack Obama’s upcoming visit to Ethiopia in July—the first visit for a sitting U.S. President— is an exciting moment for Ethiopian Americans in Seattle, and gives hope the attention will help erase the negative and outdated stereotypes of the African nation.

“It highlights how Ethiopia has taken the leading role to become a safe place to invest,” said Ezra Teshome, a successful Ethopian American businessman in Seattle.

While the U.S. was one of the most generous countries to Ethiopia in its dismal past, Ethiopians now in the U.S. hope Obama’s historic visit will start a new era of partnership in investment and trading between the two nations.

“It’s exciting to see a sitting  president  set foot in Ethiopia,” said Teshome, who came to the United States in 1971. “To me, seeing the first African American president visiting Ethiopia is very exciting.”

The White House announced last Friday that POTUS will be visiting Ethiopia in late July. The president plans to visit Ethiopia and the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, according to the announcement. The trip to Ethiopia will follow the president’s visit to Kenya.

The White House added that the visit underscores US efforts to work with “sub-Saharan Africa to accelerate economic growth, strengthen democratic institutions, and improve security.”

While Obama had visited  Ethiopia in 2006 as a senator, the presidential visit now is being welcomed by Ethiopian Americans living in Seattle.

Teshome noted the progress and modernization in Ethiopia over the past decade.

“I see tremendous changes in Ethiopia in terms of the economic growth, infrastructure such as roads and light rail system being built and major freeway being built connecting Addis to Djibouti,” he said.

“The government has done some good, some bad, but overall there is a tremendous, encouraging progress in the economy,” Teshome said.

Similarly, Elias Godifay a Ph.D student in Finance at Northcentral University and an accounting teacher at North Seattle College also has hopes that Obama’s visit will bring some positive attention to Ethiopia.

“What this means is, specially from the US side, it’ll open eyes to really invest and see with a new eye what Ethiopia is like right now and kind of leave the stereotype they (investors) have about Ethiopia.”

Godifay, who has been in the U.S. since 2003, says that U.S. investors seem to have retained old stereotypes of Ethiopia.

Such fears are unfounded, Godifay said.

“The country is stable and appealing to investors and recently Ethiopia has issued a bond for the first time but still rated B+(B1) by Moody’s which I think is a great achievement,” he said.

Godifay says Ethiopia is attracting a lot of Foreign Direct Investment from Asia and Europe but the US is lagging behind. He hopes the Obama visit to Ethiopia will make a difference.

“A time has come to give attention to Africa,” said Godifay. “Africa has been neglected for so many years because of inflated risks or some risks that don’t even exist such as political instability, lack of infrastructure and low return-on-investment.”

He thinks the visit will give a lesson to the entire world and mainly fellow Americans “who are behind the game when it comes to engaging and investing in Africa.”

Abel Ghirmai immigrated from Ethiopia more than 20 years ago and now works with immigrants through the city’s Ready to Work Initiative, says with the president’s “Power Africa” initiative and this upcoming visit, it’s now Obama’s moment to accomplish tangible benefits to Africa, much like the people who preceded him in office.

“Obama’s predecessors Bill Clinton and George Bush have really accomplished some tangible things. Bill Clinton did the AGOA (African Growth Opportunity Act) that significantly helped African nations. Also George Bush combated the HIV AIDS” epidemic, which Ghirmai noted had effective results.

Abel Ghirmai who has lived in the U.S. for more than 20 years, at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (Photo courtesy Abel Ghirmai.)
Abel Ghirmai who has lived in the U.S. for more than 20 years, poses at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (Photo courtesy Abel Ghirmai.)

The visit has not been without its critics, particularly those concerned about the free press. For example, the May 24 Ethiopian General Election showed a 100 percent election victory for the ruling party winning 546 of the 547 parliamentary seats, according to Ethiopian newspaper Addis Standard, was received with suspicion.

Kenneth Roth, the Executive Director for Human Rights Watch expressed his dismay on Twitter.

However, Godifay, Ghirmai and Teshome said avoiding Ethiopia wouldn’t improve the issues of human rights and freedom of the press in that country.

“I think they may have some points but the absence of Obama’s visit doesn’t mean it will improve the situation. Probably not. I’d rather see him go and open a dialogue with the government to address the issues,” Teshome said.

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Ezra Teshome, a businessman in Seattle who immigrated from Ethiopia in 1971, talks about his hopes for President Obama’s upcoming visit to Ethiopia. (Photo by Goorish Wibneh.)
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22 Comments

  1. Great to hear the planned visit of Mr. Obama. It is an energizer for Ethiopia in its journey for political and economic development. It will show the true picture of its development to American investors and bring their interest to invest in Ethiopia. I am also hopeful that such visits will improve the lacking human rights, good governance situation of the country as it will push the authority to do more in that sense.

  2. Ethiopia is rising from the ashes thanks to the sacrifices of jeganu weyenti Tigray. I love EPRDF. Forever and ever :)

  3. The president should be ashamed of himself and proved himself that what he talked or promised to do is defferent what is actually doing now. As all you knew the president made speech at Ghana parliament 6 months after he took months in 2009 about how democracy and building civic Soviet is important. In that speech he said” Africa needs strong institutions not strong man”. Now he supporting strong men by visiting them thereby he validating their rig election, the jailing of private journalists and jailing and killing opposition party members. Ethiopia election board already announced the result last week in which the ruling party already 100% meaning all the 547 parliament seats. This kind of 100% election result occurred only in two nations፡Ethiopia and North Korea. This the country Mr president set to visit. And the seatle globalist has felt short making the article alaborate and fair because it only brought Mr teshome to legitimize the Mr obamas visit to Ethiopia. Our president again disregard the the value of democracy and free Soviet and he isn’t also living in his own words. Shame shame

  4. I do not know what the successful Ethiopians American businessman Ezra Teshome does. But, unless he has a business interest with the ruling regime, a legitimate businessman wouldn’t recommend Ethiopia as a success to recommend for others.

    The accountant instructor should also get his accounting right, it doesn’t add up.

    Obama is ill advised to go to a country ruled by the same party for 24 years not to mention a highly corrupt despotic regime. It set a bad example and mislead investors. The regime is a liability for US in the long run.

    Seattle Globalist should do better investigation before it report what individuals said. There are dozen of credible institutions and Media report to refer to and do a better reporting.

    Wibneh need more training. As a lesson for the future he need to find relevant scholars or institutions on the issue. If s/he wants the opinion of the laymen like the two, he should ask hard questions to inform the public they don’t have vested interest on the regime and the outcome of Obama’s trip. From their responds one can see either they are clueless what is going on or have something to gain out of it, particularly the businessman. No successful businessman will pass an opportunity to plug-in his business on the Media. That means he have vested interest with the corrupt regime not to revile what kind of business he does.

    The armature reporter need to upgrade his skills not to make another blunder like this.

  5. Response to Mr. Bezabeh
    EPRDF was won the May 2015 election 100% of the seat. This shows that the voters are willing to give a contract agreement to EPRDF for the next five years. This is their decisions, no body(barking Dog like you) can enforcement them. Besides, you have to understand that Mr. Obama is planning to visit Ethiopia not only for the seek of Ethiopian people, he has his own national Agenda. This way that way there is no space in Ethiopia for the members of the previous regime(Mengstu) ever.

  6. It was be a disaster for democracy, freedom of expression and accountability of government. A visit of Obama will give blank check for EPRDF to go on with their authoritarian rule. Shame on the U.S. You put yourself always on the wrong side .

  7. Shame on you President Obama. Do you even remember what you said about tyrants when you were inaugurated in 2008.? Please review before going to visit Ethiopia.

  8. Obama’s visit will help improve the bad image of the country probably will also boost investment by American corps. Contrary to those who oppose his visit, I actuall believe it will be a good opportunity for the POTUS to raise the horrifying human rights abuse in the country. Obama has to raise the 100% “election” thing and the brutal nature of the government. Overall I am glad he is visiting. A visit by US president is a plus.

  9. Dear Lecture, business man,
    I’m am sorry to say but both of you guys don’t know Ethiopia any more.
    Why don’t you go back to Ethiopia if there is an opportunity you are talking about?
    I know if you go there you will back to US again for seeking asylum again.
    Please do not talk what you have not know and see only because of supporter of TPLF.
    Are you impressed in constructions? Is that what you decided the improvement of economy?
    Come on think twice before you comment on public media.
    Why you are living here? I am sure your first answer is – Democracy
    So human right is the first issue before roads, buildings and train.
    Essey Z Asfaw

  10. Look we are reading the argument between the elites and the ignorant who are full of hate. When the educated and the professors showing their Love and the positive wish for their country Ethiopia the other side uneducated talk TRUSH. I am on my late 70 and I am not a politician (of course I voted for EHADG, the present Government) because, in my life time I have never ever thought Ethiopia will change for GOOD LIKE THIS. Yes people Ethiopia is on the going on THE RIGHT TRUCK and became an example of fast growing developed country not only in Africa but, in the WORLD. Those who got eyes they can SEE it so OBAMA as a WISE President saw it and made a good decision to visit Ethiopia. Hopefully, he is NOT someone to be distructed by falls accusation like some of you writing here, you did the same thing to disturb our free election but, the people of Ethiopia ignored you and showed you that we are more civilized than a gossip of a village like women men thing, who ever you are?
    The other thing No one more than him (Obama) is accused by doing all the good things for his people. To give access for the poor people who can’t have Health insurance, affordable education, affordable housing (Mortgage break, fixing the immigration situation for people who deserve it???? everything and anything GOOD that Obama did to helps the majority of America people was considered wrong with some arrogates and selfish people like you who just hate Ethiopia, the Ethiopian people and the HARD WORKING GOVERNMENT who are still working to take all of US out of poverty. Would you be HAPPY to call as again the example of famine??? No way thanks to late Melsese Zenawi and the present Government that is History for Ethiopian people. Obama you are WELCOME TO ETHIOPIA AND BY VISITING US YOU ARE DOING THE RIGHT THINGS TRUST ME EHTIOPIANS AS A NATION DESERVE THE CREDET. GOD BLESS ALL

  11. The title by the writer GOORISH WIBNEH should be

    “Obama visit to Ethiopia brings fresh eyes to the country, say very few individuals among Seattle Ethiopians”
    INSTEAD OF

    “Obama visit to Ethiopia brings fresh eyes to the country, say Seattle Ethiopians .”

    Elias Godifay got ties with TPLF mercinaries. I suggest people to refrain from confronting this guy in person after reading what he said. Elias Godifay a Ph.D student in Finance at Northcentral University and an accounting teacher at North Seattle College also has hopes that Obama’s visit will bring “some positive attention to Ethiopia.” .

    I would ask this PhD student what did the president of USA Mr. Obama do to bring posetive attention to the black population in USA where 1 In 3 Black Males Will Go To Prison In Their Lifetime, Report Warns for us Ethiopians (Africans) to expect there will be posetive attention brought by his visit to an African country? But since I know the student got ties to mercinaries I don’t ask him in person to preserve my life.

    Yes, America’s economy is a war economy. Not a “manufacturing” economy. Not an “agricultural” economy. Nor a “service” economy. Not even a “consumer” economy. Approximately 12%-13% of the American population is African-American, but they make up 40% of the almost 2.1 million male inmates in jail or prison (U.S. Department of Justice, 2009).
    According to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), African Americans constitute nearly 1 million of the total 2.3 million incarcerated population, and have nearly six times the rate of whites.
    A black male born in 1991 has a 29% chance of spending time in prison at some point in his life.[6]
    One out of nine African American men will be incarcerated between the ages of 20 and 34.
    Black males ages 30 to 34 have the highest incarceration rate of any race/ethnicity.

    http://www.marketwatch.com/story/why-we-love-americas-outrageous
    https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/race/news/2012/03/13/11351/the-top-10-most-startling-facts-about-people-of-color-and-criminal-justice-in-the-united-states/

    http://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/rates.html

    • One thing TPLF and USA got in common is they got WAR ECONOMY. Why else are Americans so eager and willing to surrender 54% of their tax dollars to a war machine, which consumes 47% of the world’s total military budgets?
    • Why are there more civilian mercenaries working for no-bid private war contractors than the total number of enlisted military in Iraq (180,000 to 160,000), at an added cost to taxpayers in excess of $200 billion and climbing daily?
    • Why do we shake our collective heads “yes” when our commander-in-chief proudly tells us he is a “war president;” and his party’s presidential candidate chants “bomb, bomb, bomb Iran,” as if “war” is a celebrity hit song?
    • Why do our spineless Democrats let an incompetent, blundering executive branch hide hundreds of billions of war costs in sneaky “supplemental appropriations” that are more crooked than Enron’s off-balance-sheet deals?
    • Why have Washington’s 537 elected leaders turned the governance of the American economy over to 42,000 greedy self-interest lobbyists?
    • And why earlier this year did our “support-our-troops” “war president” resist a new GI Bill because, as he said, his military might quit and go to college rather than re-enlist in his war; now we continue paying the Pentagon’s warriors huge $100,000-plus bonuses to re-up so they can keep expanding “America’s Outrageous War Economy?” Why? Because we secretly love war!

    http://www.marketwatch.com/story/why-we-love-americas-outrageous

    http://www.marketwatch.com/story/why-we-love-americas-outrageous

    1. Hello Rubbish… I do appreciate and respect what you are saying…. It has been true of the past. The black people of the U.S. have gone through difficult times, but – Obama is a different president. He has tried to bring awareness to problems and has fought hard to make change.

  12. what does are two different things, thus if he says something like Democracy, accountability, free press and election he is simply uttering them to make him look good and sound democrat!!!!

    Visiting Ethiopia is contrary to what American belief is!

    1. for me Obama is visiting Ethiopia country for different culture ethnic groups ,upraising government and people !! Obama should visit us and support us again and again !!!!!!!!!!!

  13. for me hisbexcellency his visit nothingvitvdoes rather than image building and strengthining bilateral relation

  14. Dear angry Ethiopians in Diaspora, It is your right to show your dissatisfaction in the politics and in the system. However, you have no right to talk and represent the 90 million hard working Ethiopians who live in their own mother land. You have no right to sabotage and destroy, their hopes and dreams of coming out of poverty. You live in luxury and extravagance, this should not drive you to vain activities, that merely is constructed to satisfy your own illusions of power grabbing. The nation, the people are bigger than this narrow concept of which ethnic group is dominating in power. Use your dissatisfaction in a rational and constructive way and you will see a new world will be opened for you too. Otherwise your notion for the country will be obscured in to an infinite hate and sorrow. It is extremely easy and coward to hate and get carried with (those who hate), but it is courageous and magnanimous, to wake up with insight. You can not continue to deny, the truth for ever, one day it will stumble you and you will be ashamed to death. The nation needs you, wake up and stand up for the truth.

  15. I wish Bexabeh comes and visits his country’develoment insteade of commenting onPresident Obama’s visit. The president has the right to visit any country when Iinvited.
    Yohannes

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