Ethiopia sees rise in businesses doing good as economy opens up

Abiy Ahmed
Abiy Ahmed

From ex-prostitutes making jewellery out of bullet casing todrones delivering blood, rising numbers of businesses with a mission to helpaddress social problems are emerging in aEthiopia as the economy opens up.

An estimated 55,000 social enterprises operate in Ethiopia, thesecond-most populous country in Africa and fastest growing economy in theregion where about a quarter of 109 million people live below the poverty line,according to the World Bank.

But the number of ventures set up to do good is on the risesince Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came in 18 months ago and vowed to open theeconomy to private investment, raising hopes of official recognition for thesector and easier access to funds.

Kibret Abebe, one of Ethiopia's best-known social entrepreneurs,said the sector would be boosted as Ethiopia hosts the 12th annual SocialEnterprise World Forum (SEWF) this week, the first developing country to do so.

"The economy is opening up and we are seeing more socialenterprises in Ethiopia," said Abebe, first president of Social EnterpriseEthiopia, which was set up last year to advance firms set up to do good thatre-invest their profits into their work.

"Scaling up has been a nightmare in Ethiopia and it's beenhard to collaborate with the government but I'm optimistic this will change aswe have a lot of social problems to fix."

Ethiopia's Education Minister Tilaye Gete said hosting SEWF,attended by more than 1,200 delegates from 50 or so countries, was a sign ofchange under Ahmed, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize earlier this month.

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