Ethiopian woman speaks to audience, standing in front of banner reading Hub 1

First expo for women-owned businesses in Ethiopia gives training in digital skills

9 October 2023
ITC News

The Business Women Expo in June attracted more than 30,000 visitors, bringing invaluable attention and new customers to the 115 exhibitors. Training and workshops sponsored by ITC’s NTF V Ethiopia Tech ensured that entrepreneurs could expand their skills while growing their networks.

When Tigist Abebe wanted to start a business making fashion and décor from bamboo, people told her she was crazy. Crazy to leave her decade-long career as a flight attendant. Crazy to work with bamboo, which grows in Ethiopia but is rarely used. And crazy to start a business as a woman in a country where men dominate in business and finance.

‘We women, we don’t have that much opportunity to express ourselves, to do things and to do our best,’ she said. ‘There are lots of pressures on us. We have to manage our homes, and our kids.’

‘The competition with men in business is high, because they have the networking, the capacity, the time, and everything. We need a push to get to the front,’ she added.

For her, the Business Woman Expo was that push. She signed up at the last minute for a stand to display the bamboo handbags and other accessories made by her company, Tenadam but to also learn how she could better promote her business in digital platforms.

‘I was so happy that I decided to go, because I’ve gotten lots of opportunity from it. I got lots of media coverage as a new brand. Lots of people came to see our products, and there were good sales also,’ she said.

That’s exactly what organizers were hoping for, to create a platform to bolster women-owned businesses. The Expo has teamed up with the Ministry of Innovation, the Ministry of Industry, the Ministry of Labour and Skills, and the Ministry of Planning and Development.

Hub 1 boosted training on e-commerce, e-payments and digital skills

The International Trade Centre brought in trainers to guide entrepreneurs in how to use technology to grow their businesses. The Netherlands Trust Fund V sponsored Hub 1, a training section of the Expo focused on e-commerce, e-payments and digital skills .

In the Hub 1, trainers from Addis-based Summer Media and the Meta Boost business programme, backed by Facebook parent company Meta, shared insights on leveraging social media to drive business growth. They looked at how to create and optimize business pages to reach more customers and build a strong online presence.

After the Hub 1 training, six women reported new business worth $20,000 as a result of their new skills. In addition, 28 women entrepreneurs also said they’d changed their business operations to make them more competitive as a result of the training.

The online marketplace HellooMarket Ethiopia provided training on how to sell products on e-commerce platforms. And the digital payment systems telebirr and Chapa explained how their services both streamline online transactions and provide access to small loans.

‘Digital lending is just starting and growing in Ethiopia. Small vendors need a very small amount of money, so it’s very helpful for them,’ said the Expo’s managing director Selamawit Dejen Woretaw.

The Minister of Women and Social Affairs, Ergoge Tesfaye visited the Hub 1 section. All the government ministries who worked with the Expo are keen for the next edition in 2024, Woretaw said.

‘The vision was very big. To establish a platform like this, from scratch, just the happening of the event was a success. It was a success. More than 30,000 people came to visit. That was huge,’ she said. ‘We already started, two days after the event, to plan for next year. The ministers were happy about it.’

Group of women greets minister, in front of sign that reads Hub 1
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Ergogie Tesfaye, Minister of Women and Social Affairs, visited Hub 1 to meet some of the entrepreneurs who took advantage of the training.
Photo by ITC

About the project

The Netherlands Trust Fund V (NTF V) (July 2021 – June 2025) is based on a partnership between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of The Netherlands and the International Trade Centre. The programme supports MSMEs in the digital technologies and agribusiness sectors. Its ambition is two-fold: to contribute to an inclusive and sustainable transformation of food systems, partially through digital solutions, and drive the internationalization of tech start-ups and export of IT & BPO companies in selected Sub-Saharan African countries.