Speech - 2015 UNDP Entrepreneurship Award

Mar 5, 2015

H.E. Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn,  

Excellencies Ministers

Excellencies Ambassadors,

Members of the private sector,

Ladies and Gentlemen,


Welcome to the 2015 UNDP Entrepreneurship Award ceremony. 


I like to refer to this Award as the Ethiopian Oscars for entrepreneurship, and I hope in years to come it will inspire the most creative and talented Ethiopians to turn their business ideas into strong enterprises.


A special thanks to His Excellency, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, for joining us this evening, a testament to his personal commitment to unleash the entrepreneurial spirit of Ethiopia’s private sector and to work with UNDP in Ethiopia as a partner of choice.


Ladies and Gentlemen,


This week kicked off on Monday morning with Ethiopians, here and the world over, waking up to the commemoration of the battle of Adwa.


Today, in the spirit of this week, we gather to celebrate Ethiopia’s modern-age warriors: its entrepreneurs. Ethiopia’s entrepreneurs who have taken up the age-old brave battle cry of ‘Erregoraaw’ to the global market place.


Unlike the battle of Adwa, these entrepreneurs are not fighting to protect land, but to build new businesses and conquer new markets. Instead of weapons and shields at the frontlines of a war, they bring fresh thinking and unbridled creativity to solve old problems in new ways.


Unlike the battle of Adwa, they are inspired not by generals, but by the aim to contribute to and benefit from Ethiopia’s economic growth. They do not seek to destroy an enemy, but to create jobs and wealth.


Already SoleRebels, the eco-friendly Ethiopian shoe company launched by Bethlehem Tilahun is blazing a trail for Ethiopian entrepreneurs wishing to make it big on the global scene, showing that it can be done.


We are proud that Bethlehem is UNDP Ethiopia’s Goodwill Ambassador for Entrepreneurship, and is using that platform to continue inspiring others around the country to follow in her footsteps.


As we celebrate the success of Bethlehem, we also need to recognize and support the work of up-and-coming Ethiopian entrepreneurs, and help them to turn their visions into realities, and their small companies into large enterprises.


That is why we have established this inaugural UNDP Entrepreneurship Award, to shine a light on the incredible talent this country has and to encourage more Ethiopian’s to start businesses which can make a real difference in Ethiopia.


Tapping into the dynamism of its people and their strong entrepreneurial spirit is so important for Ethiopia to create decent work for millions of people and to continue to reduce poverty.


Distinguished Participants,


UNDP is committed to helping Ethiopia do just that, including through our flagship Entrepreneurship Development Programme which had the privilege of H.E. Prime Minister launch it two years ago.


By providing skills-training, access to finance, business advisory services, and connections to sources of innovation to aspiring and existing Ethiopian entrepreneurs, we are helping to create a robust foundation for an energetic private sector that will contribute to inclusive economic growth.


The Entrepreneurship Development Programme has trained numerous entrepreneurs and business development advisers across the country. To date, our trainings have benefited some 12,000 people, nearly 40 percent of whom are women.


We have also provided Intrapreneurship training for the public sector, so that civil servants start behaving like entrepreneurs and contribute to building an enabling environment for Ethiopia to become middle income country by 2025.


I use this opportunity to commend the Government of Ethiopia, and in particular the Ministry of Urban Development and Construction and the Federal Micro and Small Enterprise Development Agency, for their steady commitment to invest in private sector development and the Entrepreneurship Development Programme.


I also thank the Government of Canada and Microsoft East Africa for their generous support to this programme.


This is an exciting time to be an Ethiopian entrepreneur.  This is a country on the move, with fast-paced growth. Around every corner lies a business opportunity, and daily we are seeing new enterprises take root and flourish.


Still, entrepreneurs face many challenges.  The 2014 World Bank Report on ‘Doing Business’ places Ethiopia 132nd out of 189 economies on understanding regulations for small and medium-sized enterprises.


Entrepreneurs face challenges in complying with regulations for their businesses to get off the ground.  Entrepreneurs face challenges in having access to credit and financial services. Entrepreneurs face challenges in importing and exporting goods.


But none of this is breaking news. Ethiopia clearly recognizes these challenges and is working to put in place the right systems and structures to support entrepreneurs. Indeed, a key objective of our Entrepreneurship Development Programme is to help Government create an overall enabling environment in which private businesses can grow.


And my friends and colleagues in Government know that it makes more than sound policy sense to support entrepreneurship in Ethiopia and create a vibrant and conducive environment. There is, and must be, a vested interest in doing so.


I am strongly aware, and experience has shown that as an international civil servant the only place that I can go to after I leave the public sector is the private sector.  And I believe the same applies to most of my friends in the Government of Ethiopia. When we succeed in developing the private sector we will be doing it for ourselves.  And so it is in all our interest to develop that private sector.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

The 2015 UNDP Entrepreneurship Award is the inaugural annual award to celebrate Ethiopia’s budding entrepreneurs. As all first events go, this has been a steep learning process for us. We look forward to scaling up as the years go by and also expanding our partnership around this award and the Entrepreneurship Development Programme.


Let me take this opportunity to extend my appreciation to the partners who stepped up to join us today to celebrate Ethiopia’s entrepreneurs:


·         SoleRebels, which is co-sponsoring with UNDP the Young Female Entrepreneur of the Year category;


·         Foundation Green Ethiopia & Yisera Betachin, which have come together to sponsor the Environmental Sustainability category;


·         Enat Bank & Bunna International Bank, which have partnered to co-sponsor the Rural Entrepreneur category; 


·         Tivoli Trading Ltd which is sponsoring the Start Up category.


·         And Kenya Airways, for donating two tickets as their sponsorship


These companies are all showing the importance of building an ecosystem which support entrepreneurs from top to bottom – an ecosystem which allows them to take an idea and run with it; to get access to finance at an affordable price; to partner with other suppliers and market leaders; to import and export inputs and ready-made goods; and to grow and expand with ease.


I would also like to take a moment to thank the judges who made time to go through the applications and identify our finalists: Mr. Yohannes Neda and Costantinos Berhe from the Addis Ababa University; Mr. Tariku Besrat from Unity University; Ato Neteru Wondsen from MoFED; Mr. Kimiaki Jin from the Japan International Cooperation Agency; Mr. Marcos Lemma from IceAddis; Ms. Jerusalem Berhanu from the Embassy of Canada; Ms. Aster Seifu from the Federal Micro and Small Enterprise Development Agency; Mr. Fekadu Tassaw from the Ethiopian Chamber of Commerce; and our UNDP Goodwill Ambassador for Entrepreneurship, Ms. Bethlehem Tilahun.


As we enjoy the festivities this evening, let me wish the best of luck to all our finalists. Successful entrepreneurs have an indomitable will and are always motivated by the success of others, so I know that all of our finalists will leave this room tonight far richer in spirit than when they first arrived.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me welcome you once again as i invite H.E. Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn to the podium to make his opening remarks.

Thank you.

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