ADDIS ABABA, Aug. 14 (Xinhua) — Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Sunday inaugurated the Dire Dawa Free Trade Zone, the country’s first free trade zone.

The Ethiopian government said the Dire Dawa Free Trade Zone would augment the country’s economy by improving its import and export trade. The Dire Dawa Industrial Park and the dry port along with the Ethiopia-Djibouti railway station formed the free trade zone. The development of free trade zones is said to be one of the major economic initiatives set as part of Ethiopia’s 10-year development plan. Ahmed said free trade zones would enable Ethiopia to better integrate into a rapidly changing world.  He affirmed that the development of free trade zones will facilitate the country’s export and import trade, as he emphasized the Ethiopian government’s commitment to construct additional free trade zones to enable competition with the global trade system. “The Free Trade Zone we are building is one of our ways to integrate into a rapidly changing world. I have no doubt that the zone will not only facilitate trade and investment but also enhance our technological capabilities,” state-run Ethiopian News Agency (ENA) quoted Ahmed as saying.

Dire Dawa, some 445 km east of the capital Addis Ababa, was selected to host the country’s first free trade zone due to its proximity to ports, market potential and huge cargo gravity as well as suitability for multimodal transport and logistics operation, according to the Ethiopian government. Ethiopia’s Minister of Transport and Logistics Dagmawit Moges stressed that the East African country has been implementing several strategies to enhance its import and export trade. According to the Ethiopian government, the Dire Dawa Free Trade Zone is expected to reduce logistics time and cost, improve efficiency and trade competitiveness, attract more FDI, boost urbanization and industrialization, and eventually boost the country’s economy.