Partly driven by youth idealism and a willingness to change the narrative of home, Hanny Semere is on an ambitious drive to use her privileged status to help Ethiopia find an innovative solution to some of its systematic social challenges. That dream might end up earning the 20-year old USD one million to help her fulfill her dream.
This, after she became an important member of team, now shortlisted for The Hult Prize, an award to help young business students such as herself compete for needed resources and have them work in areas of food security, water access and education – the familiar themes of Ethiopia.
“I have always wanted to focus on economics and behavioral science since childhood,” the Hult International Business School student in London told The Reporter. “My aspiration is to finish my educational endeavor and return to Ethiopia and use all the skills I have earned to make a profound change to Ethiopia. That is the ultimate goal for me”.
It was earlier this year; Hanny helped form a team and decided to try for the prestigious award. The theme of this year’s award interested her – “Harnessing the power of energy to change the lives of 10 million people by 2025” – the year Ethiopia expects to achieve a middle income status nation, shaking its image of a destitute society that is dependent on aid from western nations. For her, her efforts as well as the efforts of the members of her team, the idea was to have them focus on the humanitarian needs of farmers in the rural parts of the country.
“We are not inventing the technology ourselves but rather creating business models around those that are already in place,” she said. “Our intention is to work for sustainable and scalable social change.”
The Hult Prize was founded in 2010 by private donors within the banking industry in association with the United Nations Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative. From the start and till last year, former President Bill Clinton was given the honor of choosing the topic and helps select the winners in September. The idea was conceived out of the One Laptop Per Child foundation initiative known to provide technology to the vulnerable. Last year, former President Barack Obama replaced President Clinton.
It was Hanny, who influenced the team to venture to Ethiopia and envision a humanitarian role for themselves. The idea of focusing on the rural parts seemed the obvious choice, as she understood that is where the majority of people reside and where millions of people are involved in the agriculture arena.
“We became familiar with the reality of the farmers, as we visited them in their own areas and conversed with them,” she said. “We saw the hardship, as few mode of transpiration and roads were available to farmers to sell their products and make their way back to their homes.”
It was a challenge to watch them wait for hours for basic transportation, arrive in the market late, experience few customers and be forced to return their products back.
For the team, they are currently looking at starting a social enterprise organization, to help construct roads and help the lives of farmers ease and attempt to fine a lasting impact, instead of a band aid solution to their problems. “Not only will that help the quality of their lives, but will make them more productive and afford the resources to ultimately spend some of it back to their family members in areas of education for their children. That is a win-win for all.”
Hanny is currently in Ethiopia and being a humanitarian is becoming a life-long passion. That is whether she wins the prize money or not. In Ethiopia, she hopes to find mentors, partners and advisors to help mentor her to a public role she wants to embrace and that will allow her to contribute to the changing landscape of the nation.
Her team is excited with what might become, should the win the Hult Prize next month. That is where Hanny will begin her final year of university, with the dream to return home shortly after she graduates in a year time.