17 MAY 2014 WRITTEN BY  KALEYESUS BEKELE

ICL’s chief visits Ethiopia

 

-Eyes power generation investment 

An Israeli business tycoon, Idan Ofer, who is chairman of Israel Chemicals Ltd (ICL) and Quantum Pacific, visited Ethiopia last week.   

ICL is a leading manufacturer and supplier of potash and phosphate fertilizers. Recently, ICL bought a 30 percent stake on Allana Potash, the Canadian company that is under preparation to mine potash deposit in the Dalol depression in the Afar Regional Sate, north-east of  Ethiopia. ICL is the 6th largest potash fertilizer in the world and the 2nd in west Europe. ICL is a publicly traded company in Israel with a capital of 12 billion dollars. 

Idan Ofer came on a two-day visit to Ethiopia last week. Idan visited the potash mine in the Dalol depression. In an exclusive interview with The Reporter, Idan Ofer said that he was satisfied with his visit. “I am happy with the development at the potash exploration site, the future potash mine. Officials of Allana are closely working with the local authority and they are conscious of the demand of the local community. They pay much attention to the local community. So I am happy with that,” Ofer said.

Ofer said that ICL is planning to build a potash fertilizer factory at a cost of 600 million dollar in Ethiopia. According to Ofer, before starting mining the potash deposit, ICL will import raw materials and produce potash and phosphate fertilizers.  “After we start mining the potash deposit we will locally manufacture the potash fertilizer. We will primarily supply the potash fertilizer for the local market in Ethiopia. But we will also export some portion of it. We want to make Ethiopia Africa’s potash hub,” Ofer said.

Stefan Borgas, President and CEO of ICL, who accompanied Ofer, told The Reporter that ICL has already invested 25 million dollars on Allana’s potash project and was committed to invest an additional 59 million dollars in the near future. Borgas said his company will build the fertilizer factory within a year. “We will invest 600 million dollars in the fertilizer processing plant. The potash mine and the factory will together open up 5,000 jobs. We have already invested USD 600,000 in farmers education on the use of fertilizes. There are six hundred demonstration sites all over the country,” Borgas said.

The site of the fertilizer factory is not yet identified. However, Borgas said, Allana and ICL are closely working with the Ministry of Mines and Agricultural Transformation Agency.

Ofer and Borgas met and discussed investment issues with President Mulatu Teshome (Ph.D.), Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom (Ph.D.), Minister of Mines , Tolossa Shagi, and senior officials of the Ministry of Agriculture. Ofer said he was more than satisfied with his discussions with the senior government officials. “They are supporting our investment projects. They promised us that they will build a 130 km road from the mine to the Djibouti border in the near future. What I like about the Ethiopian government officials is that they encourage investment and they deliver what they promised. That does not often happen in other countries and that is why we want to invest here. If we were not satisfied we would not invest this amount of money here,” Ofer said.

Ofer is interested in the power generation sector. He said that if the Ethiopian government wants to sustain the economic development on the country it has to ensure power supply. “There should be a reliable power supply. And I am interested in investing in power generation,” Ofer said.

Ofer owns two companies working on power and natural resources development – Quantum Pacific and IC Power. Quantum focuses on investments in Asia while IC Power is engaged in power development in Africa, particularly in Kenya, Nigeria and Congo. “I will send a technical team to Ethiopia that will undertake a study on power generation. I did not yet decide whether it is hydro, geothermal or wind. But I want my company to invest in power generation. It is the technical team that conducts a study and recommends the type of power source.” According to Forbes, the 58-year-old Ofer's net worth is six billion dollars.