However, Ethiopia wants the relationship to become stronger, said Ethiopian Foreign Affairs Minister Dewano Kedir at the Ethio-Italy-Greek Trilateral Investment and Business Networking Forum, held recently in Addis Ababa.

Bilateral trade with Italy grew more than five-fold between 1997 and 2009 from 1 billion birr (US$49 million) in 1997 to 7.3 billion birr (US$358 million) in 2013. However, the trade balance is in favour of Italy.

Ethiopian exports to Italy include coffee, animal hides and skins and semi-processed leather. Although a ban on the export of raw materials from Ethiopia is now in place.

It imports from Italy manufactured goods and construction equipment.

“We in Ethiopia are committed to work hard to encourage greater Italian investment in Ethiopia,” Kedir said. “We would like to see Italy consider the establishment of specific Italian industrial zones in Ethiopia something that both China and Turkey have started to do.”

The Ethiopian embassy is working to show the real picture of Ethiopia to Italians, said Henok Haile-Gebrial, Ethiopian embassy counselor to Italy.

“For a long time Italians did not have a clear picture about Ethiopia,” Haile-Gebrial said. “Sectors such as textile and garment, leather and leather products are helping open Italians’ eyes to Ethiopia”, he said.