Words MAXMILIAN WECHSLER
He is also ambassador to India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Myanmar. The ambassador and his wife, Tigist Amare Reda, reside in New Delhi. Two
days before Mr Dingamo gave his credentials to the Thai monarch, he granted an exclusive interview to The BigChilli, accompanied by his wife and Zenebe
Hailekiros Giday, the first secretary at the Ethiopian embassy in New Delhi.
THE obvious first question we had for Mr Dingamo was how he copes with the responsibility of handling diplomatic relations with so many countries, to which he humbly replied:
“I am not alone at the embassy. I have together with me at the embassy in New Delhi 12 Ethiopian diplomats plus around 20 local Indian staff.
“I have worked out a schedule to attend to matters pertaining to the countries to which I am a non-resident ambassador. Besides that, we have a longer-term schedule to meet periodically with important officials, especially the ministers of foreign affairs. For example, I have plans to come to Thailand at least three or four times in the coming year for various government functions.
“In the countries where I am non-resident ambassador we typically have an honorary consul, as we do in Thailand. We work closely with them. We also maintain very close relations with the embassies of Thailand, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Myanmar in New Delhi. Of course, India is among the major Asian powers, and all countries in the region have strong representation there.”
Mr Dingamo was excited about his meeting with His Majesty the King, which took place last November. “It was a very big day for me as a diplomat. I was eagerly awaiting the opportunity to present my credentials and shake hands
with His Majesty.
“I visited Thailand for the first time last June for just a couple of days. One of the matters I attended to was renewing an agreement between my country and Bumrungrad Hospital and various other Bangkok hospitals. This is a popular destination among my countrymen, including many public officials, for medical
treatment,” said Mr Dingamo.
“India, where I am serving now, is a big country, three times as large as Ethiopia, with a population of around 1.26 billion. It is a great country with a great history, great people and a booming economy, but I have to say I prefer
Bangkok to New Delhi. It is very clean in comparison, and the air pollution in many Indian cities is life-threatening. Here, you have much cleaner air and blue skies.”
The ambassador was born in August 1961 at Aleta Wondo, Sidama in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR) of Ethiopia. “I come from a family of farmers; we grew coffee. In my childhood, I worked in
the fields. Now I own some coffee plantations. My father is still alive, but my mother passed away recently. I have three brothers and three sisters. I am the eldest son. My brothers and sisters all live in Ethiopia, except for a brother who died because of the policies of the former government,” he said.
Mr Dingamo joined the foreign ministry only three years ago, but a look at his resume reveals an impressive list of academic and professional accomplishments.
“Ethiopia is Africa’s oldest independent country. Like Thailand, we were never colonised,” said Mr Dingamo. “The size is about 1.4 million square kilometres, and the population is close to 104 million, which makes it the second most populous African nation after Nigeria. Our capital is Addis Ababa, with a population of around five million. It can be called the world’s third-largest diplomatic capital after New York and Geneva because many United Nations organisations are based there, and it is the seat of the African Union, which has 54 member states. There are more than 130 embassies in Addis Ababa.
“Ethiopia maintains about 60 embassies and consular offices around the world. In Asia, we have embassies in China, India, Indonesia, South Korea and in Japan. We also have an embassy in Australia.”
According to the World Bank, Ethiopia is currently the world’s fastest-growing economy. GDP is forecast to grow by 8.3% in 2017. Much of this is due to government spending on infrastructure. “In 2017 the Ethiopian economy became the biggest economy in East Africa and sub-Saharan Africa. We had very tough years before. We were one of the poorest countries in the world, but since this government came to power, we have put in place very sound economic policies that have given us good results. Our economy has been growing in double digits for the past 14 years.
“We have the goal to become a middle-income status nation by 2025. We are optimistic about reaching the goal, but there are big challenges, including a shortage of foreign currency to import goods. All the difficulties we are now facing are temporary, and I am confident that we will overcome them.
“Ethiopia is situated in the Horn of Africa, which is a mushrooming area for terrorism. Our neighbour Somalia has no stable government, and many areas of the country are controlled by local leaders, so the situation is ripe for terrorists. The security situation has also deteriorated in South Sudan because of internal armed conflict among different political factions.
“We are fighting terrorists in a part of Ethiopia as well. But as our economy continues to grow it fosters political stability, which is helping us to counter the problem. The government has a strong commitment to fight terrorism within our borders and also support our neighbours in their struggles against terrorism.
“This is being done through peacekeeping initiatives sponsored by the African Union along with the larger international community under UN Security Council resolutions. Ethiopia has deployed soldiers to southern and northern Sudan, and also to Darfur.”
“Ethiopia and Thailand established diplomatic relations in 1964 when Ethiopia was ruled by Emperor Haile Selassie. He and late King Bhumibol Adulyadej enjoyed a very good relationship, and Thailand had an embassy in Addis Ababa from 1964 until 1974. The emperor was toppled by a coup d’état in September 1974, and the military took power and installed a socialist government. They killed many people. It took more than 17 years to overthrow that fascist government,” said Mr Dingamo.
“Current relations between our two countries are once again very good. Successive Thai governments have stressed good relations with
sub-Saharan countries. Ethiopia and Thailand support each other on various initiatives, especially in the multilateral arena. With our growing economy, there are very good platforms to elevate bilateral relations.
“Ethiopia needs foreign investment, and we have very sound policies in place to attract investors. And they are coming, especially from Asian countries like China, India and Japan. We are strongly encouraging Thai investors to join in. Africa is a big continent with big potential. We want Thailand to engage actively in Africa and particularly Ethiopia. Ethiopia is a vibrant market. Along with the rapid economic expansion comes an increase in consumer spending. The standard of living is changing, and the middle class is growing.
“Ethiopia has given the world a great many good things. Archaeologists have shown that we are the cradle of mankind. It is where our far distant ancestors first began to walk upright. Ethiopia is the origin of many other good things as well, including Arabica coffee. We sell it to the world. I don’t think it is coming directly to Thailand at this time, but it is sent to Indonesia or Singapore and then imported here.
“Thailand is importing leather products from Ethiopia. We are the largest raiser of cattle in Africa and the ninth largest in the world. Leather production is very big, and many Thai businessmen are buying from us. We also export some of the world’s best sesame to Thailand. From Thailand, we import sugar, rice, palm oil for cooking and clothes. We want very much to expand and diversify our commercial ties with Thailand.”
The ambassador said Ethiopia is also interested in encouraging more people-to-people interactions with Thailand. “More than 30,000 Ethiopians visit Thailand every year. Ethiopian Airlines has regular flights between Bangkok and Addis
Ababa. Many Ethiopians travel to Bangkok for medical treatment, especially to Bumrungrad and other Bangkok hospitals. The Ethiopian government has decided to use these hospitals to treat some officials. I should point out that when a sick person comes to Thailand from Ethiopia, it is likely they’ll be accompanied by family members.
“We are a gateway to other African countries and many African business people, tourists and people seeking medical care transit through Addis Ababa.
“Unfortunately very few Thai people visit Ethiopia. We want more to come, and there are a lot of good reasons why they should. Ethiopia has a wealth of natural and cultural attractions. There are many exotic locations to visit, and we have around ten UNESCO registered World Heritage Sites.”
“When I am in India and have free time I like to exercise. I walk a lot and jog. I also like to read, visit historical sites and attend church services. I am Christian, as is about 60 percent of the population. Ethiopia is a very diverse society.
Around 35 percent is Muslim, two percent animists or traditionalists, and we also have a significant Jewish population.”
Ambassador Dingamo can speak and write Sidamigna, Amharic, English, and Spanish languages, and speaks fair Portuguese and some Russian. His ambassadorial term is five years. In closing he gave the following statement: “First, I want to thank The BigChilli for giving me this opportunity to introduce
myself and my country to the people of Thailand. This is a wonderful country and a very good friend of Ethiopia.
“I want to thank the government of Thailand for supporting our initiative for election as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. We also received support from the Thai government for the successful candidacy of Dr Tedros Adhanom as new Director-General of the World Health Organization in 2017. Dr Adhanom was formerly our Health Minister and also Minister of Foreign Affairs. These important accomplishments for Ethiopia are the fruit of successful diplomatic relations with the world community including Thailand.
“While I am in this post I want very much to strengthen our bilateral relationship. As I have said, Ethiopia can be the gateway to Africa for Thailand. With the promise of continued economic growth in Ethiopia under a stable democratic government, Thai investors have no reason to hesitate. Thailand has every reason to be represented heavily in Africa and Ethiopia is the best place to start.
“Finally, I want to say that globalisation is here to stay. All countries need each other to survive and prosper. Despite the distance and the differences between our countries Thailand and Ethiopia should be strong allies. I want to invite Thai people to come and visit Ethiopia.”
Special thanks to Sukosol Bangkok Hotel for providing nice settings for the photo shoot.
• Elementary education: Aleta Gure & Chuko.
• Junior education: Aleta Wondo secondary school.
• Secondary education: Yirgalem comprehensive high school.
• 1979-1985: Higher education ‒ Higher Institute of Mining & Metallurgic of MOA, CUBA, received Bachelor of Science & Master of Science in Mining Geology Engineering.
• MA course being undertaken on Public Policy & Management from London School of Economics, SOAS (School of African Studies-2005).
• 1997: Leadership training ‒ certificate for three months training from Civil Service College.
• 1997: Rural development training ‒ for one month from University College of Dublin, certificate July 1997.
• 1998: Maastricht School of Management ‒ certificate in project management for 45 days.
• Various training on leadership, institutional reform, team building, negotiation skills, etc.
From September 1985-January 1987: Worked as Junior Mining Geologist at Adola Gold Development Enterprise, Shakisso.
• January 1987: Chief Engineer, Adola Gold Exploration Project.
• 1988: Adola Gold Exploration Project.
• April 1988-February 1990: Appointed as Mining Division Kenticha. Tantalum Exploration Head & Development Project.
• March 1990-December,1992: Chief Engineer at Kenticha Tantalum. Exploration & Development Project.
• January1993-June1994: Operations manager, Adola Gold Development Enterprise.
• July 1994-July 1995: Manager, Kenticha Tantalum Exploration & Development Project
• August 1995-September 2005: Water, Mines & Energy Bureau Head; at the same time held offices in addition to the above task as Hawassa City Manager & as Sidama zone chief administrator, SNNPRS (Southern Nations, Nationalities’ and Peoples’ Regional State).
• October 2005-October 2010: Minister, Ministry of Water Resources at a federal level.
• December 2010-September 2014: Adviser to the Director-General of Ethiopian Sugar Corporation & Deputy Director-General.
• September 2014-March 2016: Director-General Ethiopian Oil & Natural Gas Development Enterprise.
• From March 2016 onwards: Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia in India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Myanmar and Thailand (Ambassador-Designate).
• In addition, the Ambassador has taken a number of current and former positions as a member of the board or chairperson of various enterprises.