Things You Need to Know Before Starting A Business in Ethiopia

Starting a business is a scary thing to do. If you are not ready to handle the stress and the bad outcomes, maybe you should wait until you get yourself ready. Addis Alemayehou, one of the most successful entrepreneurs in Ethiopia, and chairman of Kazana Group, has a very realistic advice for entrepreneurs that have a startup or are thinking of starting one.

It’s no news that startups have to go through a lot before succeeding in becoming a benchmark company in their own sector. From convincing family and friends from assuming they are not insane or reckless, to being responsible for almost every stakeholder in their new business, to surviving the tax burden from the revenue authority (Gebiyoch, or Ministry of Revenues), there is a lot riding on the various ventures of entrepreneurs. Kazana Group held a webinar on Friday, October 23rd, 2020, on the basics Ethiopian entrepreneurs need to know before they begin this journey, while also advising them on tricks and tips.Nowadays, in Ethiopia, there are a large number of University graduates. Most of them find employment in government and others are employed in the private sector.

“I think now is the best time for the private sector, particularly for entrepreneurs. Since the Ethiopian government's main goal right now is to create jobs, they are now aware that the private sector, including traders, are the main job creators, so the government is doing it’s best to support these entities”, Addis says.

Let’s say that you’re employed and also have a startup idea that you’ve been thinking of pursuing, but people are telling you that you shouldn’t quit your job to do so. Or maybe you’re a student who has a startup on the side but you’re too afraid to take that first step. One thing you need to understand is that if you believe in your idea, if you have a vision for it, and if you’re passionate about it, then get your whole energy into it. If you’re a student, it’s best that you pursue that dream before starting a paying job. You should go ahead and pursue that side startup with that fresh energy that you currently possess and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. The only opinion you should listen to is yours. If you decide to settle for a paying job, then you might get comfortable and lazy to follow your passion. So be careful!

Now that you have decided to put your energy into your new venture, you will need the capital to lay the ground. Depending on how large your company is, you can borrow from your parents, friends, or even neighbors. The point is to get the cash and get to work. If you’re rather looking for larger capital, then you can look for and approach angel investors, and venture capitalists who are operating, or have an interest, in Ethiopia.

Things You Need to Know Before Approaching Investors in Ethiopia

With the majority of entrepreneurs, money is not the only problem but also acceptance of their new service/product. A lot of customers in Ethiopia tend to ask the question “With whom have you worked?”; “Where did you come from?”; “Who sent you?”; or some even ask “Whose kid are you?”. So, for that, it’s suggested that you have an ambassador. Not necessarily your investor, but someone who supports your idea. Someone that you trust your customers (target persona) will respect. Having a strong network is one way of an open door to customers.

Speaking of networks, Addis Alemayehou has also given key advice on how entrepreneurs can expand their network. He said on the webinar that entrepreneurs network starts from high school, and then goes to college. “You should fill your circle with people that are older than you, because the older they are, the wiser they get. Hanging out with people who are older, wiser, and more experienced than you is a ticket to the next level of growth. These people teach you more than school or college ever will. People don’t grow or get smart just because they go to school but from their experiences. So, be wise and hang out with someone who pulls you up a level”, Addis added.

Watch the full webinar here.