Why Ethiopians Are Freaking Out Over Al-Amoudi Arrest

Al-Amoudi has dominated the front pages of Ethiopia's top magazines since his arrest. News agencies have covered developments in his detention – including rumours on social media - as breaking news. "They are just freaking out left and right," said Henok Gabisa, a visiting academic fellow at Washington and Lee University in Virginia who researches Ethiopia. (Middle East Eye)

Middle East Eye

The Sheikh of Ethiopia: How Saudi purge could disrupt an African country

As news spread of the detention of Saudi princes and business moguls in Riyadh earlier this month, alarm bells were ringing in another capital more than 1,000km away: one of Ethiopia’s most important investors was under arrest.

It remains unclear why Saudi authorities arrested Mohammed Hussein al-Amoudi, an Ethiopian-born dual citizen who is reportedly the second richest Saudi, behind Prince al-Waleed bin Talal.

Yet while Talal – and his investments in everything from Citigroup to Twitter to the Savoy – may have gained the most media attention worldwide, Amoudi’s arrest is significant for its potential to disrupt the economy of an entire country.

Amoudi – or “the Sheikh”, as he is known – has invested in nearly every sector of the country’s economy, including hotels, farming and mining – so much so that American diplomats once questioned how “nearly every” privitisation in Ethiopia since 1994 had involved Amoudi’s companies.

“The Sheikh’s influence in the Ethiopian economy cannot be underestimated,” according to a diplomatic cable from 2008 released by Wikileaks.

Nearly 10 years later, it’s hard to put a dollar figure on Amoudi’s total investments in Ethiopia, one of the world’s poorest countries, yet one of the fastest growing in Africa.

His PR team does not comment on external figures and cautions against third party figures. One analyst put a $3.4bn value on his investments – or 4.7 percent of Ethiopia’s current GDP.

Another said his companies employ about 100,000 people which would account for 14 percent of Ethiopia’s small private sector, according to country’s latest Labor Force Survey conducted in 2013. However, World Bank analysts cautioned that these figures will have increased significantly over the past four years as the sector has grown.

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Related:
Al-Amoudi Detained in Saudi Corruption Probe

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