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Ethiopia hosts first Social Enterprise World Forum held in developing world
The Social Enterprise World Forum in Addis Ababa

Ethiopia hosts first Social Enterprise World Forum held in developing world

The 12th edition of the Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF), hosted by the British Council, has ended in the capital last night.

Held inside the compound of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), hundreds of delegates’ attended the gathering and made Ethiopia, the first developing nation to hold such an international gathering.

“Addis Ababa hosted the Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF), for the first time in an emerging market. Inclusion is at the core of social entrepreneurship. It is important that countries adopt policies and strategies to properly define social entrepreneurship in their own context. These discussions were previously conducted in developed economies and this conference is evidence that this is a global movement making change around the world,” said Markos Lemma, co-founder of iceaddis, Ethiopia's first innovation hub & tech startup.

With over 55, 000 social enterprises across Ethiopia involved in children’s education, ambulance and drones, to help the burden of basic hospital services; the interest to use the principles of social entrepreneurship has been a growing concept in the country.

 “I am sure this event will shift the African narrative,” Moses Anibaba, Regional Director of British Council said at its closing ceremony.

SEWF is a self-described, “leading forum for international exchange and collaboration in social entrepreneurship and social investment.” It was first held in Edinburgh, Scotland in 2008. 

Among the flourishing local ideas in Ethiopia which started with a vision of social entrepreneurship are Mtena – a social enterprise that uses technology to reduce infant and maternal mortality – and Tebita Ambulance, which gives affordable ambulance services within the capital.

Tebita’s founder, Kibret Abebe noted that Ethiopia still overwhelmingly uses public taxis to transport patients to hospitals.

The weeklong event included an education symposium, youth week, urban and rural study tours and a well-attended exhibition and ample networking opportunities.

“Social enterprises do exist in Ethiopia and improve society through sustainable business models. Social Enterprise World Forum 2019 is a testament to the momentum that has been built behind social enterprise in Ethiopia in a short space of time. Though the sector is still young, it has already put Ethiopia on the world stage and in doing so inspired and brought people together from across all cultures and continents,” said Anna Chojnicka, Head of Global Social Entrepreneurship Network and one of the speakers at the forum.

According to a study released during the conference by Thompson Reuters Foundation, the best places to be a social entrepreneur are Canada, Australia, France and Belgium. The study was based on government support, resources that are available and on access to investments.

Halifax, the East Coast province of Nova Scotia, in Canada is to be the host of the next SEWF event in 2020.