The African Trade Insurance Agency (ATI) has officially announced the opening of its operations in Ethiopia and Zimbabwe.

ATI has a current project pipeline estimated at more than one billion US dollars and which is expected to double in the short term, based on existing demand for its products in both countries.

Announcing the official opening of the agency in Nairobi Wednesday, AT chief executive officer George Otieno said: "I believe our entry into Ethiopia and Zimbabwe, particularly at this time, sends a powerful message to investors.

"Our presence signals that both countries are open for business because we are standing beside them as a credible and internationally-respected insurer with an 'A' rating from S&P (rating agency)."

The African Development Bank (AfDB) Regional Director, Gabriel Negatu, said the AfDB was pleased to have financed Ethiopia's and Zimbabwe's membership into the African Trade Insurance Agency.

The affiliation with ATI will attract prospective investors with additional guarantees to participate in the priority areas of powering and lighting, feeding, industrializing and integrating both countries, he said, adding that it will also help improve the livelihood of millions of Ethiopians and Zimbabweans.

The announcement was made in Nairobi at a press conference attended by EthiopiaN Ambassador to Kenya Dina Mufti and Negatu.

The engagement of the agency in the countries will give investors crucial comfort to start or continue doing business in the countries, it was indicated. In the case of Ethiopia, one of Africa's fastest growing economies, ATI will help the country maintain its status as one of Africa's biggest success stories.

The 66-billion USD Ethiopian economy has been expanding by as much as 10.3 per cent annually in recent years, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), with a dip to 6.5 per cent last year because of a drought, an ATI media statement received here said.

ATI was established in 2001 by African governments and a range of other shareholders to ease the concerns of investors by providing a range of investment and political risk insurance products.