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Philanthropy in the Digital Age: The Power and Pitfalls of Social Media Fundraising

Philanthropy in the Digital Age: The Power and Pitfalls of Social Media Fundraising | The Reporter | #1 Latest Ethiopian News Today

Alemayehu Taye, a native of Buno Bedele zone in western Oromia, was born into a family of farmers. Farming is his forte, but he also dedicates some of his time to exploring the vast realm of the internet in search of modern farming techniques.

However, financial constraints have presented a significant hurdle for Alemayehu in realizing his dream of establishing modern honey production, processing, and distribution businesses.

Recently, a serendipitous encounter on Facebook changed the course of Alemayehu’s journey. He stumbled upon a post by an entrepreneur who pledged financial support to those with the most exceptional business ideas, the criteria being the number of Facebook “likes” garnered.

Without a second thought, Alemayehu eagerly threw his hat into the ring.

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To his astonishment, Alemayehu emerged as the victor, winning a substantial sum of 100,000 birr. The grant was awarded by Bejai Nerash Naiker, an engineer who had posted the talent search on his social media platform.

Bejai, the proprietor of Bejai Ethio-Industrial and Engineering Solutions, extended the same remarkable opportunity to all successful contestants in the online pitch.

Armed with this award, Alemayehu is now expanding his business, amplifying the impact of pure honey distribution. He revealed to The Reporter that by combining traditional beekeeping practices with modern methods, his success has soared.

Bejai, who specializes in factory machinery and Teff farming, serves as a symbol of resilience and champions recovery and reinvention. Having battled illness, Bejai embarked on a remarkable journey, unveiling a project that resonated with the growth potential within Ethiopia’s startup landscape.

Two years ago, Bejai sparked a movement on Facebook by introducing the “Unlocking Inner Locked Capacity” project. Its mission? To foster collaboration and alleviate the fear of idea theft. This initiative has since evolved into the transformative “Community Collateral and Social Verification” program, offering a lifeline to budding entrepreneurs lacking initial capital.

“I don’t believe in assisting people without work,” Bejai stated. Subsequent phases, including the Facebook “Mission 1000” free fund competition, have added further layers of support with the ambitious goal of creating a thousand millionaires, as shared by Bejai.

The process involved a dual approach of social validation and social verification, as explained by Bejai. Contestants had to secure a significant number of likes, while comments from individuals who believed in the person’s capability to execute the business idea served as social verification. This ensured that the seed money went to deserving candidates who could make the most of it.

However, amidst these promising narratives, Ethiopia faces a dilemma. While online crowdfunding through social media is gaining traction in the country, observers note that the funds are often not utilized for productive purposes such as startup businesses. Instead, they are often directed towards immediate needs like medical treatments or social events.

The journey from donation to impact encounters shadows, where funds intended for startups sometimes deviate from their original purpose. It has been reported that certain individuals, posing as helpers of the less fortunate, divert the money for personal use, as Bejai pointed out.

Communities striving for self-sufficiency face challenges in ensuring that funds earmarked for startups reach their intended beneficiaries and contribute to their business ideas.

To address this issue, Bejai emphasized the importance of dropping the business idea and focusing on initiatives like the Ministry of Work and Skills’ “Enkopa Summit,” which signals a commitment to entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurship competitions, television programs, and small credit institutions play a significant role in nurturing the startup ecosystem. However, the risk lies in verifying the grants of seed money, as vulnerabilities can arise in ensuring that the funds are allocated to deserving and impactful ventures.

Philanthropy in the Digital Age: The Power and Pitfalls of Social Media Fundraising | The Reporter | #1 Latest Ethiopian News Today

Among the entrepreneurship competitions is the Dashen Bank “Altitude Entrepreneurship competition”, which injects financial incentives into the startup landscape. Similarly, Awash Bank’s “The Hardworking” program aims to support promising entrepreneurs.

Television programs like “Negadras” provide a valuable platform for aspiring entrepreneurs, offering exposure and guidance from industry experts. “Negadras,” an entrepreneurship competition aired on Ethiopian television, features judges such as Addis Alemayheu, Tsedke Yehune (Eng.), Bejai Naiker (Eng.), Getu Kebede (Eng.), and Hawlet Ahmed. Winning contestants receive funding for their promising business ideas.

While these programs contribute to the growth of the startup ecosystem, they also raise questions regarding the transparency and effectiveness of fund distribution.

The entrepreneurship competition not only serves as a financial boost but also offers invaluable guidance to contestants, helping them navigate the intricate terrain of the business world. Even for those who may not emerge as winners, the judges extend personal assistance to entrepreneurs whose potential they recognize and believe in.

While social media platforms like TikTok and Facebook amplify the reach of aid organizations, it is the individual sponsors who truly stand out.

Amidst the complexities, Ethiopia’s commendable traits of resilience, collaboration, and empowerment shine through. However, it is crucial to acknowledge the shadows that obscure the path to sustainable impact.

Transparency and accountability emerge as the cornerstones of a thriving and impactful startup ecosystem.

For the supporters of new business startups, it becomes imperative to scrutinize the mechanisms in place, ensuring that the intended beneficiaries truly receive the support they deserve. Ethiopia’s journey towards a brighter future for its youth and entrepreneurial ecosystem depends on tackling these challenges head-on.

Within the vibrant tapestry of Ethiopia’s social landscape, a grassroots movement is unfurling as communities strive to navigate the ever-rising cost of living. The less privileged, facing barriers to traditional employment, find solace and support in innovative avenues—a movement deeply rooted in self-sufficiency and empowerment.

Start-up funding and grants stand tall as two significant pillars of this movement, delivered through diverse channels, with social media emerging as a powerful force in their implementation.

However, a nuanced narrative emerges when delving into the dynamics of how these funds are distributed and utilized.

Establishing stringent mechanisms for monitoring, evaluation, and accountability becomes paramount. By ensuring transparency in fund distribution and promoting responsible practices in entrepreneurship competitions, the integrity of these initiatives can be safeguarded. Ultimately, this guarantees that the intended beneficiaries receive the rightful support, fostering a culture of responsible and impactful giving across Ethiopia.

These collective efforts align seamlessly with the mission of the Job Creation Council, operating in all sub-cities, which places great emphasis on capacity building, awareness, and comprehensive support—from registration to employment—ensuring economic strength among the youth.

While the Ethiopian Small Credit and Savings Institutions Association faces persistent challenges, a ray of hope shines through the forthcoming law. This legislation, currently pending approval by the Council of Ministers, is expected to facilitate a more conducive startup business environment. Its success hinges on carefully considering the factors that will ensure the growing startup ecosystem remains a catalyst for positive change.

A tapestry of assistance for those in need takes shape through various channels, including government initiatives, social media platforms, and the compassionate actions of individuals. Together, they weave a narrative of support and progress in Ethiopia.

Amidst the growing support, a disconcerting trend has emerged—improper methods and potential misuse of donated funds. While the government has shown support through various means and generous contributions during holidays, concerns arise about the transparency and accountability in these efforts.

Social media platforms like TikTok, Facebook, and YouTube have become powerful tools for rallying support and providing assistance to those facing hardships.

Figures like Master Abinet Kebede, boasting an impressive 1.7 million followers on TikTok, exemplify the modern face of philanthropy. Through his videos, he sheds light on encounters with the helpless on the streets, showcasing the collective efforts of people coming together to provide aid. During the Borena drought, Abinet extended his support to those in need.

However, amidst these commendable efforts, the potential misuse of funds collected through various social networking sites has been apparent. What once started as a fundraising process to help the less fortunate has taken an unexpected turn, with some individuals diverting the collected money for personal gain.

John Daniels, with 1.2 million TikTok followers, adds to this narrative.

While he provides financial support by meeting different people on the road, the line between genuine assistance and potential exploitation becomes blurred. Instances arise where the noble act of giving back is overshadowed by the potential misuse of funds.

The influx of humanitarian support from non-governmental organizations and the backing of large company owners and investors further complicate the landscape. While their contributions play a crucial role in addressing societal challenges, the need for stringent oversight to ensure funds are directed toward genuine causes cannot be overstated.

Bejai emphasizes the importance of establishing robust mechanisms for monitoring and evaluating donation practices. Striking a balance between encouraging generosity and safeguarding against potential misuse, he says, is paramount to preserving the genuine spirit of altruism that has been a cornerstone of Ethiopian culture.

Prominent journalist Samuel Getachew, known for his efforts mobilizing funds for those in need through the power of social media, has made a decision to pause his philanthropic efforts. The reason behind this unexpected move? A relentless onslaught of criticism that has left him grappling with doubts and second-guessing his mission.

At the center of the scrutiny lies a cloud of allegations surrounding how funds were managed by the recipients themselves, thrusting Samuel into the unenviable position of ensuring responsible utilization of the donated money.

One incident, in particular, has become emblematic of the challenges he faces. It involves a destitute woman who, amidst a torrential rainstorm, was selling corn on the streets. Samuel, moved by her plight, shared her story, and the response was astounding. A remarkable sum of 65,000 birr poured in from compassionate souls eager to make a difference.

The intention was clear: the funds were meant to secure her rent and provide for her children’s education. However, shockingly, the money was ultimately squandered on a television, triggering a fierce backlash against Samuel who suggested she should only cover essential expenses.

The criticism, amplified by self-proclaimed feminist voices, has reached a crescendo, thrusting into the spotlight the intricate dance between societal expectations and the distribution of aid.

Despite subsequent attempts to provide ongoing support, occasional instances have emerged where recipients veered off course, misusing the funds for non-essential items. This has further fueled the fire of discontent.

In response to the mounting pressure, Samuel has chosen to recalibrate his approach, putting a spotlight on direct assistance from contributors and minimizing his role as the intermediary.

A recent visit to Mekelle provided a poignant moment when a young girl captured a video of herself joyously dancing alongside the journalist.

The video struck a chord with viewers, prompting an outpouring of generosity to the tune of 27,000 birr. This new strategy aims to enhance transparency, accountability, and alleviate concerns about the potential mismanagement of funds.

Yet, despite these efforts, the ingrained stigma surrounding aid collection stubbornly persists.

Well-intentioned individuals who genuinely seek to make a difference often find themselves unjustly branded as opportunistic thieves, creating a challenging and disheartening environment for both compassionate donors and deserving recipients.

Samuel’s ongoing struggle embodies the intricate tightrope walk between maintaining accountability, managing public perception, and nurturing a genuine desire to bring about positive change through the noble act of aiding those in need.

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