We are slightly star struck when entering the office of the world famous runner Haile Gebresalassie. We’re not here to talk about his amazing achievements as an athlete, but to talk business – his business that is. The prize-money Haile won as a runner has been invested wisely in Africa’s fastest growing economy.
−The economic growth is good news for me and my businesses, Haile Gebresalassie says and smiles. −More money and less manual work in the general population mean more fat people, and fat people come to my gyms to sweat off the extra kilos.
What the 42-year old celebrity is saying is true, even if it is just a tiny bit of the truth. The money Haile makes in his three gyms are quite insignificant compared to what he makes from real estate, car-import, agriculture, gold mining and running of two private schools.
To be in Ethiopia is to witness an economic miracle. The country has enjoyed close to double-digit growth for a decade. Right now it is creating millionaires faster than anywhere else on the continent. Eight floors below Hailes office the streets of Addis Ababa reverberate with hammering from construction workers as the concrete skeletons of new towers and a light rail project rise into the crane-dotted sky. Ethiopia’s government says it is on course to meet most of the millennium development goals, and by 2025, to be a middle-income country.
In the days of Live Aid the GNP of Ethiopia was $ 7.9 billion, last year in was $ 46.9.
−I see signs of economic growth everywhere I go, Haile says.
−But we have to play our cards right to make the most of the optimism many Ethiopians share right now. A lot of rich people are involved in some sort of trading. Importing things cheap and selling it with a profit is not strengthening our economy, it only makes the traders richer. We need things to export. That’s my reason for investing in gold mining, agriculture and schools. Of these three, the education sector has the best potential. I think human resources will be our biggest asset in the future, the marathon man says.
−Ethiopians hate to lose, you see, he adds rising his arms in the air like he used to do as an athlete, when he crossed the finishing line first.