ACT News

Outgoing Ethiopian ambassador thanks Canberra neighbours

One of the first things that struck Ethiopia's outgoing ambassador to Australia upon arriving in Canberra was the kindness of his new neighbours.

Whether at the embassy in Red Hill or at his home in O'Malley, His Excellency Arega​ Hailu​ Teffera​ noted how readily the people on his street welcomed him and offered support.

Arega Hailu Teffera is about to leave his position as Ethiopian Ambassador to Australia.
Arega Hailu Teffera is about to leave his position as Ethiopian Ambassador to Australia.  Photo: Elesa Kurtz

"All of [the neighbours] knew us and were very ready to help us; the Australian people are humble and supportive," he said.

The first resident Ethiopian ambassador to Australia, Mr Teffera started his country's Canberra mission in December 2013.

He will soon leave for a new role in Indonesia, but said he was proud of presiding over a period that included the 50th anniversary of bilateral relations between Australia and Ethiopia.

Receiving international attention during a widespread famine between 1983 and 1985, Ethiopia has looked to Australia for dry climate agriculture collaboration.

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The United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated that 10.5 million Ethiopians were food insecure as recently as December, due to an El Nino system causing drought conditions in East Africa. Another 315,000 were flood-affected in the south of the country.

Mr Teffera said this drought's impact on the country, however, would be nowhere near as devastating, thanks in part to trials of new agricultural methods.

"The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research has been working in Ethiopia to develop greater diversity in agriculture and different kinds of dry land agriculture," he said.

Mining and tourism have also been major aspects of the Ethiopia-Australia relationship over the last two years.

Mr Teffera visited Western Australia and Victoria to attend forums on oil, gas and minerals to promote investment in Ethiopia.

"I was very much welcomed by mining companies and able to get the message out that Ethiopia is open for business," he said.

"About 127 companies have expressed an interest and, if it were not for the economic slowdown, I believe more would have visited."

Ethiopia is also interested in promoting itself as a tourism destination, boasting nine UNESCO World Heritage sites, varied landscapes and cultural attractions.

Mr Teffera said part of his mission involved working with Australian tourism operators to encourage the introduction of holiday packages to Ethiopia.

"No other country has the same number of historical, archaeological, natural and cultural attractions asEthiopia," he said.

Bilateral relations between Australia and Ethiopia were formalised in 1965, though the relationship dates back to the 1890s when eucalyptus trees were imported to Addis Ababa for timber.

A new Ethiopian ambassador is expected to move to Australia later this year.