Raising Awareness of Social innovation Activities in Ethiopia and Other African Countries

Ethiopian Innovator (EI) was developed to raise awareness of the area of social innovation and digital social innovation in Ethiopia among Ethiopia youth. The strategy is to show examples of social/digital innovators in Ethiopia as well as in other parts of Africa. The EI platform also seeks to encourage Ethiopia Diaspora groups and other local entities to consider supporting such entrepreneurs through financing and through technical support to the extent possible.

Transitioning to Digital Social Innovation

There are promising developments for the technology center in Ethiopia such as Ethio Telecom’s nearly 200% discount on internet access, and new initiatives to promote technology entrepreneurship by the Ministry of Innovation and Technology and other stakeholders. There is still, however, much to be done in terms of promoting technology based entrepreneurship in Ethiopia.

One key challenge for technology entrepreneurs, as well as other entrepreneurs, is lack of access to finance. Banks do not provide loans to implement business ideas and there are few venture capitalists willing to invest in start-up ventures. Even impact investors that are slowly appearing in Addis Ababa are not eager to invest in very early stage firms. Licensing procedures, tax laws, and unavailability of affordable office space are additional constraints for Ethiopia’s innovators.

EI seeks to profile social innovators and help them attract the necessary finance to scale up their operation and increase efficiency through digitizing their operations, as it is clear they cannot achieve the substantial social impact that they seek to make without doing so. Besides mainstream social innovators, EI is also profiling digital social innovators who already integrating technology into their operations. The objective is to raise awareness of digital social innovators among youth and to also assist the profiled innovators to attract financial support.

Resources for Innovators

The EI platform also provides links to resources for aspiring and existing innovators in areas related to launching and operating a business such as business planning, marketing, etc. In addition, a commentary section provides commentary on social innovation in Africa.

EI Collaborators

The EI platform is being launched through Partners in Development, a non-profit organization focusing on women and youth entrepreneurship development and Diaspora knowledge transfer with collaborative activities undertaken by ice Addis, the first technology incubator established in Ethiopia. EI is also collaborating with Ignite Investments, a firm that provides business planning and coaching services to promising SMEs who are already operational in Ethiopia. Some of the innovators profiled in the EI platform were part of an investment readiness program for socially/environmentally conscious supported by the British Council/European Union. The previous project provided some business support and business coaching to selected socially minded and innovative entrepreneurs, and was implemented by East Africa Gate and staff of Partners in Development.