Digital Startups showcase solutions

February 27, 2023

21 February 2022 - Over 50 digital solutions showcased their work this week when over a hundred small and medium enterprises (SMEs) converged for the Digital Startup Marketplace 2023.

The two-day event, held at the Science and Art Museum in Addis Ababa, was organized by UNDP in collaboration with the Ministry of Innovation and Technology (MiNT) as well as the Ministry of Labour and Skills (MoLS).

The event focused on digital Startups to align with Ethiopia’s digital transformation strategy 2025. The event will be held annually with the UNDP accelerator lab as the integrator among the different stakeholders. 

SMEs are widely considered the engine of growth for economies, with vast potential for job creation, across the globe. This is also true for Ethiopia, where UNDP prioritizes partnerships around support for SMEs. The number of micro, small, and medium enterprises in Ethiopia is estimated to be around two million micro, small, and medium enterprises in Ethiopia.

Visiting the event, UNDP Africa Regional Bureau Director, Ms Ahunna Eziakonwa noted that SMEs provide a country with an opportunity to create jobs, advance prosperity and address the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The UNDP Africa Director stressed that UNDP was pushing for a startup revolution with opportunities for promoting cross-fertilization of knowledge and skills across the continent. 

According to Enkopa, set up by the MoLS, UNDP and partners as a national movement promoting entrepreneurship, Ethiopia’s draft Startup Act, currently awaiting parliament approval, will provide high-growth MSMEs and innovative enterprises with fiscal and financial incentives and the opportunity to access the regulatory sandbox to test their economic model.

The event also hosted panel discussions on digital and innovative finance for SMEs and capabilities and connectedness of the public sector for SME support. One of the panels was organised by the Ethiopian Youth Entrepreneurs Association under the theme SME connectedness and capacity of the public sector to support SMEs, while the other panel, looking at the digital and innovative financing option for SMEs was organised by the Innovative Financing Lab (IFL), a joint initiative of the National Bank of Ethiopia and UNDP. Launched in 2022, the IFL brings key stakeholders from the banking, public, development partners and private sectors on its advisory board. The IFL is setting up an Enterprise Financing Facility (EFF), a USD 100 million investment fund, matched with a Technical Assistance Facility that facilitates access to finance for startups and SMEs in Ethiopia. Working with key institutions, the lab is expected to roll-out various flexible and innovative financial instruments and products that addresses the specific needs of startups and SMEs in Ethiopia.

UNDP's various interventions around SMEs in Ethiopia focus on helping growth-oriented enterprises and startups to tackle challenges in the startup ecosystem, promote innovation and facilitate innovative access to finance.  In line with this support, the Digital marketplace is designed to create ecosystem connections for the supported startups and highlight the importance of SMEs in creating an inclusive economic transformation.