Ethiopian Social Enterprise Under the Spotlight

Ethiopia is set to host the Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF) next month. With over one thousand delegates expected to be in attendance in the capital, the gathering is to focus on the concept of social entrepreneurship, a new concept to a population and a nation still dependent of reaching an ambitious goal better sustainable growth and human development in the old conventional ways while pushing ahead with becoming a middle income nation where foreign investment becomes the norm. 

Organized by the local British Council and various ministries within the government of Ethiopia, the gathering is to be a milestone occasion for East Africa, which has not hosted such an international gathering of social entrepreneurs previously.

Within Ethiopia, while the concept is new, Kibret Abebe, the founder of TEBITA ambulance managed to embrace the concept, running a for-profit company with much positive impacted on the nation’s local health care system.

An anesthetist, he began his journey in Ethiopia’s vulnerable health sector as an anesthetist. He had watched, even in the capital, as people in need of medical care were transported to health facilities in an emergency, with inept transpiration mods of transports, including taxis and worse, in the rural parts, with donkeys and being carried on the back of their loved ones to the nearest hospital, loosing critical time in the process.

“Social enterprise is a growing sector in Ethiopia, with women and youth playing an increasingly prominent role,” the British Council said in a statement announcing the awarding of the right to host the event. “The sector is providing new alternatives and demonstration that profit-making can go hand-in-hand with social and environmental impact as well as innovative and sustainable solutions.”

For Kibret, when proposing the initiative to the Ethiopian Ministry of Health in 2008, then the ministry looking for innovative ways to help serve a growing youthful population dependent on publicly funded health care, he started his entrepreneurship with a single ambulance. Today, he remains the only for-profit ambulance and pre-trauma care in the nation with dozens of ambulances – proving this concept has a practical results.

According to Social Enterprise Ethiopia (SEE) that was founded in 2018, it was founded on the principles of bringing to the table, “the larger community of social enterprises, aspiring social entrepreneurs, government bodies, supporting partner organizations and individuals” and it to help in their growth and expansion via a combination of mentorship and growing networks.

Another idea born out of social entrepreneurship is HelloSolar and BelCash respectability, which both aim to provide access to energy and information to the bottom of the pyramid at an affordable installment payment plan, a landmark concept in Ethiopia, where the majority of the population can not afford basic electricity.

For BelCash is a financial inclusion strategy via mobile money, again in a population that still conducts transactions with actual monetary funds. To achieve result, the company recently partnered with Lion Bank and the World Food Programme (WFP) to, according to the company, “give pregnant and breastfeeding women the opportunity to improve their dietary diversity and help stop stunting”.

Fassike Fikre Hailemeskel started the Maisha Technolgoies PLC in Ethiopia, wanting to use advanced drones to access hard to reach areas for fast delivery of bloods from the Ethiopia’s various health centers in the rural parts of the nation, where half of maternal deaths occur. Supported by the Bill & Melinda Foundation, the made-in-Ethiopia drones are said to be in the final stages of trial and be implemented soon after.

Another concept is VitaBite, started in 2015 and aims to bring behavioral change and feeding and care practices to adolescent children. According to the group, it focuses on those that are newly born, up-to 1000 days and offers children’s cook book, SMS for recipes for pregnant woman, including teaching them cooking strategies, among others.

In the coming weeks, The Reporter intends to report of some of these enterprises individually and give the conference an ongoing coverage in the lead up to its start date which is on October 23rd. 

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