BY VINCENZO GIARDINA | DIRE *
“In Asmara, people expect Italy to play a role, helping to realize the promises of peace with Ethiopia and to start a path of economic development,” said Pietro Zambaiti, CEO of ZaEr Dolce Vita, the first industrial textile company in Eritrea, speaks with the agency ‘Dire’ about the mission of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte in the Horn of Africa.
The head of the Italian government will arrive this week in Asmara from Addis Ababa, traveling a route that for at least 20 years has been banned from citizens and diplomats.
Scheduled meetings with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki, signatories of the July Reconciliation Agreement with a commitment to re-launch bilateral relations after a war that caused about 80 thousand deaths between 1998 and 2000.
“Eritrea became independent only in 1993 and then lived in a ‘No-peace, No-war’ condition and a sanction,” said Mr. Zambaiti. It was in 2004 that his father bought the buildings of Cotonificio Barattolo for a symbolic value of one dollar, historic but also in collapsing state: “the machines were useless and the company needed huge investments in machinery and know-how,” recalls the CEO.
Today ZaEr Dolce Vita produces about a thousand shirts a day addressed to the Italian and European market, as well as work clothing for the local and African market.
A model company also from a social point of view, which operated in a difficult context, emphasizes Zambaiti.
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Convinced that, today Italy must above all “work to consolidate the peace agreement with Ethiopia, by promoting the launching of new economic activities and helping to create the conditions necessary to attract investment”.
The assumption is that, beyond colonialism, our country has left a positive legacy.
“The Italians created companies of excellence and taught a profession, until the nationalization of the companies by the Ethiopian government in the ’70s,” says Zambaiti.
“Today they could help Eritrea in the manufacturing, agro-business and tourism sectors, with the beauty of the coasts, the Dankalia region and Asmara itself, proclaimed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site for its modernist buildings.”
Can peace with Addis Ababa guarantee economic benefits?
“Ethiopia is a country of over one hundred million inhabitants, with its own industrial development but without an outlet to the sea” Zambaiti replies: “Eritrea, which has only five million inhabitants, could put it at its disposal, helping to attract new investments also thanks to an interesting and growing outlet market,” a perspectives, of which PM Abiy and President Afewerki discussed in Asmara again at the beginning of September.
“The summit was also an opportunity for a visit to the ZaEr stand”, recalls Zambaiti. “They both wore the shirt of our Peace Butterfly campaign, which Ahmed then showed in his speech for the Ethiopian New Year on September 11, Live on TV. “
* Software translation from Italian to English