Supporting young entrepreneurs in Ethiopia

Design company in Ethiopia
UNDP is supporting an entrepreneurship programme that aims to create 100,000 businesses and expand another 100,000. Aynis Design, pictured above, is one of them (Photo: UNDP Ethiopia)

Aynalem Ayele is a young woman brimming with confidence. “Ayni’s Design,” her small jewelry and clothing design shop in the heart of Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, offers creative designs of leather products, incorporating cultural motifs and items into everyday products for the young and savvy urban customer.  

Aynalem just completed an intensive six-day entrepreneurship and business training course as part of a UNDP-supported programme to accelerate the development of the private sector across Ethiopia.


  • Since the launch of the programme in 2013, over 19,000 young entrepreneurs have been trained.
  • The 3-year initiative is funded by Canada and UNDP, and is expected to create up to 200,000 new jobs.
  • The number of profitable enterprises is expected to increase by 10 %, with women and youth forming at least 50 % of workers.

As she reflects on expanding her business, Aynalem says excitedly that the training course helped her understand one important thing that other courses did not: “How you calculate ahead your business risks.” 

UNDP provided US $6 million to the $26 million Entrepreneurship Development Programme for Ethiopia, launched in 2013 by the country’s prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, who remarked that “the acute lack of social capital and particularly that of entrepreneurship skills (…) stands in the way of ensuring rapid industrial growth." 

In April 2014, Canada provided 5.8 million USD to build the entrepreneurial capacity of around twenty-five thousand Ethiopian women and youth.

Girum Tariku, an Ethiopian in his late 30s, joined the programme after having been forced to file for bankruptcy. Following the training, he opened a printing and communication company. He is both the director and a major shareholder of the firm, and provides employment for six young people.

“I took the entrepreneurship training and it really helped me to translate my vision into clear workable objectives,” Girum said. His business, started with less than $1,500, now boasts an expanding capital asset of over around $52,000. Girum speaks of one day becoming a major player in the East African private enterprise scene. 

Recent rollouts have helped introduce the programme to budding entrepreneurs and reached out to university lecturers all over the country, providing them with basic entrepreneurship skills during trainers’ workshops. Over 100 training sessions have helped train over 11,000 young entrepreneurs so far.

In addition to financing the scheme, UNDP identified similar programmes in Ghana and brought in trainers from that country to teach participants. 

 “This country is on the cusp of a major development transformation,” says UNDP Resident Representative Eugene Owusu. “In Africa, Ethiopia is the country to watch!”

The programme is expected to help 200,000 entrepreneurs through skills training and business advisory services over a period of three years. To ensure the full implementation and sustainability of the programme, 25,000 additional people will be trained as trainers and a further 20,000 as business advisors. 

Ethiopia is currently implementing the first of three five-year strategic plans to achieve Middle Income Country status by 2025, and the country is on track to meet the Millennium Development Goals on halving poverty by 2015. 

Micro- and small businesses are expected to play a strong role in this transformation and to become a spring board for developing a vibrant private sector.  


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