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The Open Society Foundations (OSF) reaffirms its commitment to support Ethiopia’s reform agenda

Dear Editor

The Open Society Foundations (OSF) remains committed to supporting Ethiopia’s reform agenda, led by the Ethiopian people.

Coordinated by its African Regional Office (AfRO), OSF is finalising grants worth USD25 million to key public institutions, civil society and independent media. USD24 million will be disbursed in December 2019, through the Ministry of Finance, to the Prime Minister’s and President’s Offices, the Ministry of Innovation and Technology, the Attorney-General’s Office, the Supreme Court and the National Election Board of Ethiopia to support their respective contributions to reform and preparations for the 2020 elections.

OSF’s Economic Justice Programme (EJP) recently announced its social impact investment of USD10 million into the Cepheus Fund, intended to support women-led small and medium size enterprises (SMEs).  And OSF’s grantmaking foundation for the region, the Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa (OSIEA), has already approved grants totalling USD1.5 million for Ethiopian civil society and independent media towards work on human rights as well as public engagement on economic reform and the 2020 elections. OSIEA’s intention to open an office in Addis Ababa has been delayed as we consider the best legal compliance and registration options—meaning that it missed our initial deadline of August 2019.

We acknowledge the public questions about our engagement in Ethiopia.  All OSF entities identify organisations to fund through an open and transparent process. We fund organisations that work towards advancing open society values—be they public, private sector or civil society and independent media organisations. In Ethiopia, OSIEA has held a number of convenings with Ethiopian academics, public intellectuals and organisations to explore opportunities for collaboration. These convenings shaped OSIEA’s priorities for Ethiopia and also helped identify potential partner organisations already working towards those priorities.

Organisations seeking funding from OSIEA submit concept notes for internal review. Those whose proposed interventions align with identified priorities are then asked to submit full grant applications. These are reviewed by programme staff and then OSIEA’s senior management team, whose own approval authority is up to USD50,000.  Those for amounts over USD50,000 are forwarded to OSIEA’s full Board of Directors for review and approval.

Following the process above, 11 civil society and independent media organisations are set to receive funding from OSIEA. We look forward further grantmaking to more organisations. Any Ethiopian organisation interested in submitting concept notes is invited to do so (please see our website: as well as OSF’s website: for more information on other possibilities within the network).

For over four decades, OSF has worked towards building vibrant democracies.  George Soros, OSF’s founder and Chair, began his philanthropic work in 1979, funding scholarships for black South African university students under Apartheid. Today, OSF funds individuals, organisations and, where welcomed, reform-minded, post-conflict and other transitional governments, in more than 120 countries.  OSIEA, founded in 2005, works towards an inclusive and just Eastern Africa in which its people can live in dignity and equality and participate meaningfully in public life.

Ruth Omondi is communication officer for The Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa (OSIEA)