On the 23rd and 24th of November 2023, the vibrant city Addis Ababa played host to the Ethiopian Startup Ecosystem Festival, a collaborative effort organized by BIC Ethiopia, a EU co-financed project, and the PSD programme by GIZ. Held at the venue “African Mosaique” in Legetafo, the event served as a nexus for discussions, ideation, and celebration, bringing together the diverse tapestry of Ethiopia’s startup ecosystem.
The festival’s core aim was to unite the Ethiopian entrepreneurial community, fostering collaboration and steering the ecosystem towards greater heights. All incubators affiliated with BIC Ethiopia and the PSD-E project of GIZ were instrumental in nominating startups and Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) to participate in this grand event.
Day 1: Insights and Discussions:
The first day witnessed over 100 participants engaging in thought-provoking discussions and insights. The agenda revolved around dissecting past activities that aimed at improving and growing the Ethiopian startup ecosystem. The stage was set for a deeper understanding of the challenges faced and successes achieved. The event also provided a platform for startups to showcase their innovations through pitches.
A panel discussion on the top issues affecting the Ethiopian startup ecosystem followed the startup pitches. Subsequently, Growth Africa, BIC Ethiopia’s consortium partner, presented a benchmarking report comparing the Ethiopian startup ecosystem with Kenya and Uganda. This insightful report shed light on potential areas for growth and adaptation.
Day 2: Showcasing Innovation and Celebrating Success:
The second day of the festival drew an even larger crowd of around 150 participants, representing the diverse facets of the Ethiopian startup ecosystem. The nominated startups and MSMEs took center stage, presenting their work and utilizing the networking opportunities provided by the event.
Keynote speakers, including Anna Getaneh (CEO, African Mosaique), Aregash Asfaw (GIZ Cluster Coordinator, Economic Transformation Cluster and Programme Head PSD-E), and Dorothee Hutter (GIZ Country Director for Ethiopia & Djibouti), shared their insights into the transformative power of startups in driving economic change.
Government representatives, Dr. Bayissa Bedada (State Minister, Ministry of Innovation and Technology) and His Excellency Ato Nigussu Tilahun (Minister of State for Jobs, Employment and Labor Market of the Ministry of Labor and Skills), emphasized the importance of collaboration between the government and the private sector for sustainable economic development.
The pinnacle of the second day was the closing of the BIC Ethiopia Finance Innovation Lab, where the best performers pitched their cutting-edge agri-finance solutions. The Commercial Bank of Ethiopia and Kacha emerged as the winners, showcasing the caliber of innovations emerging from the Ethiopian startup ecosystem.
The festival concluded on a stylish note with a fashion show featuring designs from the Fashion Incubator African Mosaique, highlighting the creativity and potential within the Ethiopian fashion and design landscape.
A Glimpse into the Future:
The Ethiopian Startup Ecosystem Festival not only celebrated achievements but also laid the groundwork for future endeavours. The collaborative spirit, insightful discussions, and recognition of innovative solutions exemplify Ethiopia’s commitment to nurturing a robust and dynamic startup ecosystem. As the echoes of this event reverberate, it is clear that Ethiopia is poised for a future where innovation thrives, startups flourish, and economic transformation becomes a reality.
Through the BIC Ethiopia project, BIC Africa the regional network also participated in the festival and reinforced the ongoing cooperation and collaboration with the Ethiopia ecosystem players. In which BIC Africa shared the collaborative effort and brought in the important role of BIC Africa’s regional network to strengthen and boost regional collaboration as well as regional collaboration to build Ethiopia’s ecosystem in Africa for better connection and synergies between actors of the regional ecosystem. Moreover, bridge cross continental linkage between African and European startup ecosystems. BIC Ethiopia is part of the BIC Africa regional network and regularly collaborates to provide capacity building and networking activities to the selected business incubators and their client companies.
BIC Africa is funded by the European Union and implemented by EBN, implemented in Angola, Comoros, Ethiopia, Madagascar, and Somalia.
Written by Sabine Schacknat and Dawit Dagnew
Photo: Sabine Schacknat, Dawit Dagnew & BIC Ethiopia