It’s 4am on a Tuesday morning, I wake up to the spattering of rains on the roof, I’ve got to get ready hurriedly as my favourite cab driver Jimmy is already waiting for me outside, I have a flight to Addis Ababa to catch. As we drive through the Southern bypass, I notice that apart from a few cars headed towards the airport, Nairobi at 4am is so serene with hardly any traffic and this sets my mind to a reverie: How would Addis be like with the new leadership? What about my friends at Saint Mary’s University? How would the new cohort of entrepreneurs be like?

Bole International Airport in Addis didn’t disappoint, the migration process was swift, as soon as I checked out, I was invited by staff from Ethio-telecom to get a new 4G SIM card, the data bundles were quite affordable, and the service was fast and pleasant. I left the airport armed with my newly acquired local SIM Card and 4GB of bundles. This may seem like it’s no big deal but to me, it was a sign that Ethiopia was positively changing, within a short time the curtailing of internet accessibility was a thing of the past. Most of the cars had portraits of H.E Abiy Amed the new Prime Minister. The driver from the hotel was quick to point out that Abiy was loved, that the country was now more united than before and the heavy handedness of the Government on the people was not there anymore.

I was in Addis on a mission: 3 years ago the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart of Milan, E4Impact Foundation and Saint Mary’s University signed an agreement for the joint offering of the MBA in Impact entrepreneurship targeted to a new stream of job creators in Ethiopia. We were to run the Business Idea Competition for the 2nd cohort of entrepreneurs who would be joining the program in the 2018/19 academic year where the MBA applicants would present their business ideas that they have submitted for admission to the program to a jury composed of faculty, investors, entrepreneurs and business experts.

The day of the Business Idea Competition, was a day to behold, the entrepreneurs arrived early, excited and full of expectations; they were in three clusters: the idea stage (those with a business idea that they would like to launch in the course of the MBA program), the start- uppers (those with early stage business) and the Scale-ups (those with businesses that have been running for a period of 3 years and more). The judging criteria was based on 3 elements: the business potential, the strength of the entrepreneurial team and the social impact potential.

3hours later, 14 pitches done with 20 entrepreneurs present in the room, the jury was ready to award the winners of the day: Tekalign Ayano with his business idea for fortified floor from the Amarath species was the winner for the idea stage category, Nurhassen Mensur YALI Mandela Washington Fellow & Co-Founder of YenePay; the first online payment platform in Ethiopia won the start-uppers category while Alemayehu Assaye the founder of Nasaeba Animal Nutritions a company engaged in manufacturing, processing and marketing of calcium rich mineral supplements for livestock and poultry won the scale up category.

By the end of the week, I reluctantly had to say “Chawu Chawu Abyssinia“, bye bye Ethiopia, having encountered first hand several entrepreneurs with dreams to create a change for themselves, create employment for others while conscious of the social-environmental impact of their ventures, we welcome you onboard the Pan-African E4Impact MBA being offered at Saint Mary’s University where these dreams will be supported and shaped into reality together.

David Cheboryot (East Africa Manager)