On Friday morning, Mayor Muriel Bowser left for a five-day diplomatic and trade mission to Ethiopia.
Bowser has a delegation of 70 people in tow, including Ward 4 Councilmember Brandon Todd, Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, and city government representatives.
The idea behind the trip is to establish trade relations with different industries in Ethiopia. Bowser will meet with local leaders and government officials in Addis Ababa, the capital city, and Lalibela, a northern city about 531 miles away.
Bowser will also visit with President H.E. Sahle-Work Zewde, Ethiopia’s first female president, and Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed, who recently won a Nobel Peace Prize.
“We are continuing our efforts to reach beyond the borders of Washington, D.C. and establish relationships around the world,” said Bowser in a press release on Friday. “We particularly value our special relationship with Ethiopia, which has been strengthened by the substantial Ethiopian population in our city and region.”
The D.C. metropolitan region has the largest Ethiopian-born community in the U.S.—more than 30,000 Ethiopians have settled in parts of D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. Their influence is apparent at coffee shops in Silver Spring, Ethiopian restaurants on 18th St. or along U St, and in the many Ethiopian churches in the area.
According to WAMU, Ethiopians started coming to D.C. in the 1950s and 1960s as students and visitors. After a military takeover over in 1974, more Ethiopians came to the U.S. Laws like the Refugee Act of 1980 and Diversity Visa Act of 1990 immigration made it easier for those wanting to leave Ethiopia to move stateside. Many people decided to go where there was already a blossoming Ethiopian community established—the D.C. region.
Bowser’s trip to Ethiopia comes a year after Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed came to D.C. gave a talk to members of the Ethiopian community at the convention center in July 2018. Bowser joined Abiy on stage and announced July 28 as “Ethiopia Day in D.C.”
During this trip, Bowser will renew D.C.’s Sister City Agreement with Addis Ababa. The sister city agreement is a promise of friendship and an opportunity for different cities to learn about each other, per Bowser’s office. Including Addis Ababa, D.C. currently has 15 sister cities, according to the D.C. Office of the Secretary website. Then-Mayor Vincent Gray signed the first Sister City Agreement with Addis Ababa in 2013.
“Our Sister City agreements with capital cities around the world play a key role in breaking down barriers and building international relationships that allow us to improve the lives of people in D.C. and abroad.” Bowser wrote in her newsletter.
Bowser has traveled internationally throughout her mayoral tenure, including to El Salvador, Israel, and multiple trips to China. The trips to China each had budgets in the range of tens of thousands of dollars, according to the office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development.