Oct 31 , 2020

Beyene Gebremeskel

Beyene Gebremeskel, the long-serving and experienced hand in the privatisation sector, has resigned from his post as director-general of Public Enterprises Holding & Administration Agency. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) appointed Habtamu Hailemichael, his deputy, to replace him.

The premier accepted Beyene's resignation request on October 19, 2020, and appointed the new director-general four days later. The outgoing director, who has been working in the privatisation arena for over two and a half decades, is expected to become a diplomat, according to sources close to the case.

Beyene, who mentioned personal reasons for his departure, took his latest post two years ago following the last restructuring of the office from a Ministry of Public Enterprises to an Agency. The restructuring, which was initiated after Abiy came to power, has also seen the Agency report to the Ministry of Finance.

Over the three-year existence of the Ministry, Beyene has served as state minister in charge of operations and later corporate finance and administration. Before the former office was upgraded into a ministry, Beyene served as head of the then Privatisation & Public Enterprises Supervising Agency (PPESA) for many years.

He was also the head of operations at the Bureau of the Privatisation & Public Enterprises Supervising Authority that was established under the Office of the Prime Minister in the early 1990s. In 2004, the Authority merged with the Ethiopian Privatisation Authority, which was established in 1994, to form PPESA. Before Beyene, Gizaw T. Mariam, who was manager of Mugher Cement, and Assefa Abraha, former Defence Minister Siye Abraha's brother, served as heads of the Agency.

Beyene holds two master’s degrees in business administration and science & technology industrialisation from Open University and the University of Sussex, United Kingdom, respectively. He received his first degree in agricultural economics. He worked at the then Science & Technology Commission as a programmer.  He is also a member of Commercial Bank of Ethiopia's board of directors since December 2018.

The new director-general, Habtamu, has served as mayor of Adama and Jimma cities and administrator of South West Shewa Zone. He received his first degree in organisational leadership from the International Leadership Institute and a second degree from Leadstar College of Management & Leadership in management and business administration. Habtamu joined the Agency two years ago after being appointed as deputy director-general by the premier.

Prime Minister Abiy also appointed Zinabu Yirga as deputy director-general of the Agency, which has 22 public enterprises under its jurisdiction including giant companies such as Ethiopian Airlines, Ethio telecom, Ethiopian Shipping & Logistics Services Enterprise, Development Bank of Ethiopia and Commercial Bank of Ethiopia.

During the first quarter of this fiscal year, these public enterprises grossed 300.5 billion Br and 55.6 billion Br in revenues and profit, respectively. The companies also managed to generate 8.7 billion dollars in foreign currency.

The Agency went through a top-level leadership reshuffle at a time when it is going to take over the implementation of the partial privatisation of Ethio telecom. The recently legislated Public Enterprises Privatisation Proclamation mandated the Agency handle the privatisation and post-privatisation process of the state enterprises including those that are in the process of partial and full privatisation such as Ethio telecom and the sugar factories.

The Ministry of Finance deals with the pre-privatisation processes including hiring a transaction advisor, determining the modalities of the company's privatisation, the number of shares to be availed for sale, and ensuring that the companies are prepared for privatisation.

A few months ago, the Ministry of Finance had hired Deloitte as a transaction advisor of Ethio telecom's partial privatisation process, and the Agency is expected to commence implementation of the transaction soon alongside the consultant.

Early last week, the Prime Minister gave the direction to proceed with the privatisation and liberalisation processes of the telecom industry, which was paused for a few weeks until multi-round consultative meetings were being held on the process with the public, opposition party leaders, as well as industry operators.

PUBLISHED ON Oct 31,2020 [ VOL 21 , NO 1070]

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