Ethiopia Tackles Unemployment Crisis as Dubai Investors Back India to Rival Uber

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Ethiopia will send 50,000 people to work in the United Arab Emirates, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced Monday, as the Gulf country looks to expand its influence in the Horn of Africa.

“Ethiopia is planning short-term measures to reduce unemployment in Ethiopia and to cope with the increasing job demands of our people,” Abiy told parliament in the capital Addis Ababa.

“One of these short-term programmes is sending our skilled labour to foreign countries,” said Abiy, who has sought to open his country to foreign investment since assuming office last year.

Samih Toukan, Samih Abdel Rahman and Hussam Khoury, co-founders of the Dubai-based start-up investment firm Jabbar Internet Group, have invested in the latest round of fundraising for India-based ride-hailing platform Ola Cabs.

Ola’s parent company ANI Technologies raised $11 million from as part of its latest round of Series J fundraising. Among the investors were those from the Jabbar Internet Group, who will invest $780,270 in ANI Technologies to subscribe 2,501 fully and compulsorily convertible Series ‘J’ preference shares in the company, according to documents filed by the company with Indian authorities, sourced by India-based business intelligence tracking firm paper VC.

This is the first time Middle East-based investors have made direct investments in ANI Technologies. Ola Cabs is backed by Softbank, whose Vision Fund has sizeable investments from Saudi Arabia.

“This investment is one of a surprisingly small number of direct investments by Middle Eastern HNIs (high net worth individuals),” Vivek Durai, founder of paper VC, told Arabian Business.

“Anecdotally we know there is a lot of capital directed to India (from Middle East) through third party funds but individual investments are strangely rare despite Dubai’s proximity and historically close trading ties with India and a number of countries in the region,” he added.

Arabian Business has contacted Ola for comment.

The Jabbar Internet co-founders will be issued the 10 Indian rupees face value shares in ANI Technologies at a premium of 21,240 Indian rupees ($310).

Besides the Dubai investment company founders, Sweden’s DIG Investment Ab and the US-based Deshe Holdings are the other investors in the on-going Series ‘J’ funding series of the Ola parent company.

According to the information cited on Jabbar Internet’s website, Ola will be the third Indian company in which it is making investments. Arzoo, a fast growing B2B e-commerce platform, and Hopscotch, leading kids e-commerce venture are the other two Indian companies in which Jabbar Internet Group has already made investments.

Jabbar Internet Group is said to have big returns when it exited its early stage investments and handholding of the Middle East-based e-commerce platform Zouk and Maktoob, the region’s first and largest Arabic portal, when they were acquired by Amazon and Yahoo, respectively.

The company has also invested in a number of start-ups in the Gulf region, such as Arabianweather.com, Floranow and BitOasis.

Ola, the Indian competitor to US-based global cab-hailing firm Uber, is currently expanding its operations internationally by entering Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

The Ethiopian premier however, said that under the deal 50,000 workers would be sent to UAE in the 2019/2020 fiscal year, and discussions were being held to send 200,000 over the next three years.

The workers would receive training in various sectors, including driving and nursing, earn higher wages and “boost their capacity”, Abiy said.

Discussions are underway about similar agreements with Japan as well as European nations, Abiy said.

He added that Africa’s fastest-growing economy would be aided by a young skilled workforce that was trained abroad.

The UAE has recently pressed for closer ties with countries in the Horn of Africa, helping to mediate along with Saudi Arabia a historic peace accord between former enemies Ethiopia and Eritrea last year.

The UAE and Saudi Arabia are hoping to broker peace in the region, in a sign of the growing importance the Gulf nations put on eastern Africa as they battle Iran-backed Huthi rebels in Yemen.

Last year, the UAE pledged to invest $3 billion in aid and investment in Ethiopia.

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