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Ethiopian social enterprise under the spotlight

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 its ambitious goal of better sustainable growth and human development in the old conventional ways as it pushes ahead with becoming a middle income nation in less than a decade and attempts to attract the foreign investment that has changed its narrative for the better.

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

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 impact on Ethiopia’s local health care system.

Kibret 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 for an emergency care with inept transpiration mods, inside contracted taxis to those who can afford or simply asking for a courtesy ride from strangers and worse, in the rural parts, on the back of donkeys and being carried on the back of their loved ones, 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 Addis Ababa as the host of the latest forum of entrepreneurs.  “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.”

When proposing the initiative to the Ethiopian Ministry of Health in 2008 and as the ministry was looking for innovative ways to help serve a growing youthful population dependent on publicly funded health care, Kibret only had a single ambulance to operate on but had big dreams. Today, he is still the only for-profit ambulance and pre-trauma care in the nation with dozens of ambulances - proving the concept of social entrepreneurship with practical results.

According to Social Enterprise Ethiopia (SEE) started 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 to help in their growth and expansion via a combination of mentorship and network skills to accomplish their end goal.

HelloSolar and BelCash were such ideas HelloSolar had aims 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 still can not afford basic electricity.

For BelCash, a financial inclusion strategy via mobile money tries to integrate digital transaction to a population that survies on actual monetary funds for its daily transactions. The company has since 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.

VitaBite started in 2015 attempts to bring behavioral change and feeding and care practices to adolescent children by focusing on those that are newly born (up-to 1000 days) and offers children’s cook book, SMS for recipes for pregnant woman, including teaching those cooking strategies, among others.

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