On Ethiopian women steering development in the world’s fastest growing economy

“At the moment, our hospitality industry is employing more than 5% of our population and in 2016 it covered 5.7% our national GDP. It’s visible that ever more businesses are opening leading to job creation. Hence, culture plays a major role in our economy’s growth,” Maedot Assefa Kebede on an interview with HuffPost.

By Jassir de Windt (HuffPost) |

Between 1983 and 1985, countless images revealed the extent of the devastating famine in Ethiopia. By contrast, three decades thereafter the East African nation emerged as the world’s fastest growing economy. Despite a not negligible range of political and socio-economic challenges, the country’s progression is praiseworthy. How do, particularly, highly skilled female Ethiopians experience these substantial social changes? In this interview, Maedot Assefa Kebede, one of the country’s rising entrepreneurs, does the talking.

In previous years, several media portals have reported on foreign-educated Ethiopians returning home. In your case, what has been the reason behind your return to your country of birth?

Maedot Assefa Kebede: “I was raised in a family where education was crucial – as such, I was thought about different cultures both within as outside my own country. So, when I left Ethiopia to pursue a master’s degree in the Netherlands, it was simply to explore as much as I could before the responsibilities of adult-life kicked in. An international service management graduate, when I was contemplating my return, I also knew that the industry I was trained for had still to reach its maximum level of development in Ethiopia. Because of this reason I was, of course, faced with the dilemma of staying abroad, also because I really enjoyed working in the Netherlands. But, eventually, I decided it was wiser to tackle the challenges sooner than later and moved back to Ethiopia. My guess was right: the first year was an experiment in getting employed and starting my own business – I realized I could do both with plenty of hard work and patience. In the past years, the hospitality industry has boomed and currently, there is an increasing number of national and international businesses entering the Ethiopian market. The situation has reversed, and the actual challenge lies not with hospitality professionals but with hospitality businesses in finding well-qualified personnel. I believe this is also a reason that attracts more Ethiopians to return home these days”.

In the second half of 2017, the World Bank announced its intentions to enable more than $1 billion for women entrepreneurship in emerging countries. As a female entrepreneur, how does this information translate into reality?

“When I started my business three years ago, I naturally did research in terms of various types of funding. For a brief period, I was inclined to solicit the support of similar programs, but in the end, I found most related processes being too long and sometimes vague to comprehend. It is pleasant indeed to read about these initiatives on the news, but I see only a handful or no women at all grasping these opportunities. While it’s hard to tell what the precise causes of these loopholes are, from my own experience I can tell that information in question is usually not available in accessible or easy-to-grasp modes. If similar programs are to be of any added value, partner institutions implementing and allocating these funds, need to align their information flow specifically with women entrepreneurs, other than providing generic and too official information”.

Read the complete story at HuffPost
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