StartupBlink Blog

With a population of over 112 million people, Ethiopia has a huge untapped potential market for entrepreneurs to satisfy. The capital city of Addis Ababa ranked 692nd in the top 1000 cities globally by the StartupBlink Global Ecosystem Ranking Report, Ethiopia is working hard at growing a budding startup ecosystem. 

Unique Ecosystem advantages:

  • A population of 112 million 
  • Growing Digital Development Trend
  • Several accelerator and incubator programs in Addis Ababa
  • Government support and The Innovative Startup Act

Overview of Ethiopia’ Startup Ecosystem

In Ethiopia, the relatively advanced ecosystem of Addis Ababa as a major hub allows smaller ecosystems in the region to grow through connections with the city. The majority of Ethiopian startup founders focus on local problem solving as a strategy, due to language and trade barriers.

Ethiopia’s economy presents many opportunities for startups and entrepreneurs ready to make change especially through digital means. Thus, the focus of Ethiopian founders on local problem solving is a good strategy. However, the current situation is perpetuating the problem of having the capital as a sole hub. 

Ethiopians, especially Addis Ababans, are enthusiastic about technology and the way it solves everyday problems in the country. Some successful startups and specific founders are already integrated in the local economy and are inspiring Ethiopians interested in entrepreneurship, however entrepreneurship is still not a well regarded career path in the country compared to more traditional avenues.

Entrepreneurship and Funding

In Ethiopia, entrepreneurs have few options to get their startups funded. Specialized investors are rare, and banks are not geared towards the needs of startups. There is a limited investment to capitalize on potential projects. Addis Ababa has a seed of an entrepreneur support system and community. Additionally, there are several private sector organizations helping entrepreneurs succeed in Ethiopia’s business environment.

Several interesting initiatives are clearing a path for the development of the tech scene, including. For example, the Digital Ethiopia 2025 program is a digital transformation strategy, that is built around leveraging four “Digitally Enabled Pathways,” taking into account current economic drivers. This push towards digitalization signals a growing interest in the Ethiopian government towards moving its economy into the 21st century, which is definitely great news for the startup ecosystem.

In 2020, Ethiopia’s Startup Act was published and includes establishing a National Startup Council that will be chaired by the Minister of Innovation and Technology, tasked with overlooking and supporting the country’s startup ecosystem.

Top Startups

Belcash: An ICT platform for mobile banking: micro money transfer (P2P), pay my bill, send local/international remittances, online payment solutions, buy calling credit. Ethiopia is one of the most underbanked countries, only 5% of the population has a bank account.

Deliver Addis: Deliver Addis is Ethiopia’s number one online delivery service featuring some of the best spots in town

Gebeya: Gebeya is an edtech company that provides specialized industry-specific training in software engineering, design, and digital while supporting the vision and potential of Africans.

Arifpay – ArifPay universal mobile Point of Sales (mPOS), an electronic payment platform designed for use by merchants, banks, and consumers in Ethiopia that any business, merchant, or consumer can use to transfer money, make invoices, or pay taxes.

Accelerators and Initiatives

Blue Moon – Blue moon is an exciting initiative to discover, nurture, and fund exceptional agribusiness ideas among youth that are innovative, scalable, and have huge transformational potential.

Startup Factory Ethiopia – Startup Factory Ethiopia was born to solve one challenge: How do you build a successful, scalable and sustainable business in a country with a challenging business environment and nascent entrepreneurial ecosystem?

Startup Ethiopia: Ethiopian startup ecosystem stakeholders organized the “Startup Ethiopia” event, in which founders, investors, accelerator/incubator representatives, and others gave their views on the future of Ethiopia’s innovation scene to a local and international crowd.

Key organizations

Addis Ababa Angels – Addis Ababa Angels Network is a group of individual investors who have come together to draw on their experiences and consolidate their financial resources to back early-stage technology and tech-enabled innovative businesses.

Renew LLC: Based in Addis Ababa, Renew is an impact investment firm that manages and serves the Impact Angel Network, a global network of investors that seeks to realize both social impact and financial returns on their investments in small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Africa.

Addis Ababa University: Addis Ababa University is the country’s top University, considered by relevant experts to be among the top 1,000 in the world. The university offers entrepreneurship courses in economics and engineering, and boasts a Technology Business Incubation Center for faculty and students.

Ministry of Science and Higher Education – The Ministry of Science and Higher Education is responsible to lead the development of science, higher education as well as technical and vocational education and training (TVET) in Ethiopia.

Ministry of Innovation and Technology – The innovation and technology ministry is one of the organizations pushing for innovation in Ethiopia. 

Startup Summary 

The government is making it easier for startup founders to do business in the country. These initiatives also include increased ability by Ethiopian diaspora to do business in the country and enjoy some of the benefits of Ethiopian residents. 

Ultimately it is evident that positive change is underway in the Ethiopian startup ecosystem’s legal and physical infrastructure. 

For more information on startup ecosystems download the Startup Blink Global Report

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