Sep 24 , 2022

Mesenbet Shenkute has consolidated her incumbency at the Addis Abeba Chamber of Commerce & Sectoral Associations, garnering 62pc of the votes cast last week.

She was re-elected to her second term as president, the second female in the 75-year history of the private sector institution.

Established in 1947, and reorganised half a century later, the Addis Abeba Chamber claims a membership of 17,000 companies. Nonetheless, barely a thousand members appear to vote for their leaders every two years.

Mesenbet managed to win 431 of a possible 700 votes in the election held at the Inter Luxury Hotel. A five-member electoral committee chosen ruled that 30 votes were invalid.

Mesenbet had served as president of Abay Bank before taking the helm from Elias Geneti as the second female head of the Chamber in 2018, after Mulu Solomon, now serving as Ethiopia’s envoy to Germany.

A 54-year-old mother of two, Mesenbet is the head and founder of a private consulting firm, New Dimension Management Consultancy, which was established in 2015. She is also the spouse of the historian Bahru Zewde (Prof.). She holds a graduate degree in business administration and has served as a member of the board of directors of the city chamber since 2015.

Mesenbet also serves as a member of the Amhara Bank board of directors. The fourth-generation Bank is one of several to join the industry over the past few months. It enters the market with six billion Birr in paid-up capital raised from a little over 160,000 shareholders. Others, such as Tsehay and Ahadu banks, have joined the fray. Last week saw microfinance institutions-cum-commercial banks Siinqee and Tsedey launch operations.

“I’m apt for the position,” said Mesenbet after the election results were announced.

She told delegates of her achievements in promoting 500 start-up businesses with 29 million Br, a project that stayed for four years. She also takes credit for persuading the Addis Abeba city authorities to return the Addis Abeba Exhibition Centre under the Chamber’s management and take over the administration of the underground parking lot at the newly rebuilt Meskel Square, parking over 1,400 vehicles.

Laying on a 24,000sqm plot, the 40-year-old exhibition centre is the largest venue for bazaars and trade fairs held in the city. It comprises three halls, each containing 90 booths.

However, she came under fire from members for spending five million Birr to commemorate the 75th anniversary three months ago. She also faced criticisms for her leadership’s lack of enthusiasm to modernise the Chamber with new technologies and alleged failure to raise women’s participation in leadership positions.

However, Yohannes Woldegebril, head of the Chamber’s arbitration institution, is confident in Mesenbet’s leadership. He sees her first term in office as “sufficient” to prove Mesenbet is the ideal leader for the private sector.

She ran against Edao Abdi, a significant shareholder of Edao InternaChamber'sading, a company eChamber'sagricultural produce. Last year, he was appointed vice president of the Ethiopian Pulses, Oilseeds & Spices Processors-Exporters Association.

Edao garnered 61 votes for the chamber’s presidency.

The Chamber’s bylaws grant the vice-presidency to the head of the Addis Abeba Sectoral Associations. Fasikaw Sisay holds both positions.

The general assembly also voted for a new board of directors last week. Melaku Kebede and Asfaw Alemu, presidents of Hibret and Dashen banks, respectively, were voted to the board.

Mesenbet and her newly elected board directors have set their eyes on the completion of an international convention and exhibition centre under construction in the northern part of the city, across the CMC residential complex.

The Addis-Africa International Convention & Exhibition Center (AAICEC) was conceived in 2013 to attract investment and business into the country. It was incorporated as a share company with 20 founding shareholders, including the city government, the Chamber, the Bank of Abyssinia, and Ethiopians in South Africa. A Chinese construction firm has been contracted for 120 million dollars to build the centre lying on an 11hct plot, incorporating a conference venue, exhibition platform and hotel.

PUBLISHED ON Sep 24,2022 [ VOL 23 , NO 1169]

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