Durch das Solino Kaffee Projekt kam ich auf die Idee, gut ausgebildeten Äthiopiern aus den Universitäten die Selbständigkeit zu ermöglichen. Im November 2008 habe ich deshalb einen „Business Workshop“ geleitet. Die besten Unternehmensideen wurden am Ende ausgewählt.
Damit die Teilnehmer aus Addis Abeba diesen Bericht auch lesen können, geht es jetzt in englisch weiter.
It was my third visit to Ethiopia. I think these are the issues of the country today:
- Farmers represent 80% of the population. Any bad harvest leads to economic crisis and often starvation. This summer was extremly dry and there will probably again be a famine in few months.
- Many well educated Ethiopians do not find interesting jobs after graduation. They often leave the country to search work abroad.
- Especially small start-up companies have no access to capital. The world financial crisis made it even more difficult to get loans in Ethiopia.
- Due to years of international help programs, many Ethiopians are used to free donations. This often leads to passivity and a loss of self initiative.
I decided 6 month ago to teach potential entrepreneurs how to start a business. The best ideas shall be rewarded with a capital participation of up to 50.000€. Supporting specifically clever and well educated people could have a multiplying effect as they would teach others and create jobs.
On Wednesday morning, 22nd of October, I met 20 participants that were carefully chosen out of 300 applications. The GTZ and the ecbp of Addis Ababa advertised the workshop (by the way, thanks a lot specially to Susanne, Percy (both ecbp) and Nebil (First Consult) who helped organize all this) and from the very beginning I was surprised about the clever students in the workshop.
The business ideas were all very different: a coin-laundry operator, a fish farm, a mushroom spawn laboratory, an internet site for real estate, a sms service provider, an industrial oil purification unit, a distillation of eucalyptus oil and a peanut butter factory.
On the first day the participants were quite nervous and did not want to share too much of their ideas. In fact, copying other ideas is frequent in Ethiopia: in one street one could find 30 copy shops, in the next street 25 souvenir shops!
Fortunately, as all ideas were different, the group slowly relaxed. Also, I think that students realized that they could actually learn from each other. Most participants had a scientific education. Often they were focused on all details of their product, sometimes forgetting how to explain the advantage to the customer. Therefore, on the second day (after teaching some basics about writing a business plan), each participant had to present and “sell” his product to the group.
I also spent some time on explaining how to be more focused. Some students wanted to do everything: from growing pigs to smoking ham and running supermarkets to sell the meat….
We also discussed about reducing the initial investment. Some students planed to have big offices and cars from the very beginning. Others planed to lease or buy many hectares of land (which is hard in Ethiopia as the real estate market is tightly controlled by the government). So we had to understand how we could rather cooperate with farmers that already own land.
Finally, the best 8 business ideas were presented to a jury: one banker, one consultant and an owner of a coffee roasting and trading house.The criteria of choice were:
- Trust and integrity of the entrepreneur
- Sustainable competitive advantage of the business idea
- A high “Brain / Capital Ratio”. The more the idea was based on a cleverness rather than on capital, the better it was.
- Fit to the current market situation of Ethiopia.
And the 2 winners are:
1. A mushroom spawn laboratory. Actually one cannot buy mushrooms in Ethiopia. However the climate fits well to mushroom growing (some areas are quite humid). With thousands of Chinese living in Ethiopia (they do a lot of infrastructure work in Ethiopia), there are many customers. Convincing Ethiopians to eat mushrooms might be a bit more difficult! Another reason was the very dedicated work of Tilahun Zegeye who did research on mushroom spawn production at the Addis Ababa University and who will manage the company.
2. A Distillation of essential oil. Different kinds of essential oils are needed for pharmaceutics, food and also soap. Although Ethiopia has eucalyptus forests and many other plants, essential oils are imported. Behailu Kebede and his wife Hiwot (who is currently at Dresden University for her Master degree), both educated in forestry, thought about producing essential oils for years. They learned a lot from the workshop and adapted the initial plan by reducing the amount of capital required.
It was hard to pick the two winners. At least 8-10 students had plans that were worth investing. But I wanted to concentrate on only two companies.
After finishing the workshop I only had 3 days to get these two companies started and to make sure that they would receive my starting capital of about 25.000€ each.
Initially we were looking for a lawyer to do the registration. But his fee was a bit too high (almost all white people are asked to pay more: for taxis, lawyers or any other services). Surprisingly we managed to get the companies registered by using the templates of the Ethiopian investment agency.
The two founders now own each about 65% in their companies and I 35%.
I am very sure they will both succeed and create new qualified job opportunities.
And of course I hope, that this could be an example for others to invest in small businesses in Ethiopia.
I believe this is more efficient and helpful than the donations we usually send to developing countries.
PS: Of course I also met the Solino coffee roasters in Addis Ababa. I tasted again excellent coffee! Currently the coffee is harvested in Ethiopia and will be on the market in December.