PM Lawrence Wong at the Official Dinner in Honour of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (Jun 2024)

PM Lawrence Wong | 5 June 2024

Toast speech by Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong at the official dinner in honour of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on 5 June 2024.


Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali
First Lady Zinash Tayachew
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

I am very honoured this evening to host Prime Minister Abiy’s first Official Visit to Singapore.

The visit is made extra special for several reasons:

It is the first by an Ethiopian Head of Government since 1968.
It is taking place in the 55th anniversary of diplomatic ties between our two countries.
This visit gives extra momentum to our bilateral relations, and we have many reasons to celebrate tonight.

At first blush, Singapore and Ethiopia would seem like two very different countries.

We are in different continents; 7,000 kilometres away from one another. Singapore is a small tropical island and a focal point, we have been a focal point of competition amongst colonial powers in the 19th century. Ethiopia has never been brought under colonial control, and you have a huge land mass, 5 times the size of the UK.

Given the distance, not many Singaporeans would have deep familiarity with Ethiopia.

But we do enjoy Ethiopian coffee every morning, and we are grateful for the coffee beans first discovered in your country. We admire your athletes, especially your runners who take part in our marathons every year, and excel consistently.

But these are just at the surface, in fact, our common bonds go deeper than that.

Ethiopia is an ancient civilisation. You are the birthplace of humanity, and so in many ways, we spring from the same root of life.

We are both multicultural societies. You have a diverse population with different ethnic groups and languages. To quote one of your poets, you are a “land where the first harmony in the rainbow was born”. Singapore too is founded on the same multicultural ideals. We are an immigrant society, with people from diverse backgrounds. And here, we pledge to be one united people, regardless of race, language or religion.

We also share the same animal as one of our national symbols – the lion. You have the majestic black-maned lion, which is unique to Ethiopia. We do not have lions in Singapore. But in the 13th century, a prince from Sumatra landed here and saw an animal that looked like a lion, it is “Singa” in Sanskrit, and that is why we have the name Singapore, meaning the Lion City.

Our origin stories may be different. But lions symbolise courage and strength, which are national qualities we both strive for, and traits our people share and value.

I am glad that both sides are now keen and determined to do more to strengthen our relationship.

Singapore-based companies are interested to expand their operations in Ethiopia in the agriculture, logistics and aircraft maintenance sectors. And, as hubs to our respective regions, there is scope for Singapore and Ethiopia to serve as gateways to enhance links between Southeast Asia and Africa.

Prime Minister Abiy and I are committed to take the bilateral relationship to greater heights. We have agreed to establish bilateral consultations between our foreign ministries to review and explore new areas of cooperation. And we are exploring the possibility of cooperation in new areas like transport, connectivity, digitalisation, and capacity-building issues that we discussed earlier.

So, I wish Prime Minister Abiy a fruitful visit in Singapore and I look forward to commemorating many more milestones in our relations in the years to come.

Prime Minister, excellencies and distinguished guests, may I now invite you to join me in a toast:
To the good health of Prime Minister Abiy and First Lady Zinash;
To the peace and prosperity of Ethiopia and Singapore; and
To the enduring friendship between our countries.

Governance , Trade , Transport