I recently attended a FAO workshop where the theme of discussion was the launching of an agro-processing incubation park in Ethiopia. The aim of the park is similar to those IT and manufacturing industry parks operated by Chinese companies around the country, with the difference being that the agri-processing incubation park focused on agricultural products. The aim of this park is to form a sort of a hub in which a majority of the actors needed to support the processing of agricultural products are located in the same area. The actors include among others farmers, collectors, processors and support giving institutions such as financial institutions, logistic providers and government bodies. Constructions of the facilities needed for the park are already underway in some locations in Oromia region, with constructions in other regions pending. My objective in this article is not give details about the park but rather to talk about the experience of an Ethiopian business woman who is engaged in the business of processing honey.
The lady was invited in the workshop to share her experiences related to her work in the honey value chain and provide some inputs for a successful launching of an agro-processing incubation park. What was most amazing about the woman was her strong level of commitment, dedication, hard-work, and strong optimism she had in making her dream of producing world class honey and honey products come true. For those of us who believe that it is too late for us to start chasing our dreams, I strongly believe she can be a true inspiration. Probably currently in her end forties, she quit five years ago her job as a finance personnel to pursue a business career in an industry that was truly disconnected from her past job experiences. She was bold enough to take the risk of letting go of the familiar but safe career and engage in the profitable but risky and unknown career path. Starting with an initial capital of just around 75,000 birr, she managed to grow her business into one which is valued today over two million birr within just five years! And she has no plan to stop there. You can learn from her presentation that being over 40, a woman, a wife and a mother is no hindrance from becoming a high-branded honey and honey product producer and exporter that can compete in European and other well developed markets. As we broke for coffee breaks during the workshop, her phone kept ringing from potential investors who wanted to buy her products.
I share her experience because it shows that if one is truly committed, hard-working and has strong ambitions to achieve their dreams, one really need not to flee away from this country. The business woman has faced all the imaginable hustles a person wanting to establish a successful business in Ethiopia would face. But her dream was well about the hustles. Many of us complain that there is no conducive environment to start and run a successful business in Ethiopia. The lady’s experience shows that maybe it is us who does not have a strong enough will and commitment to fight and win difficult situations that may come in our way. Like I always say, if there is a will, there is a way. This country is full of unmet needs. In economics, demand is the ability and willingness to pay for a product or service. Where there are unmet needs, there will be the willingness to pay to the one who can meet those needs. Therefore all we need is enough commitment, will and hard-work to meet those needs at a price that is both affordable to the user and profitable to us.