AWiB Team

AWiB Team

Investing in Ethiopia is not for the faint-hearted. With a projected national income of 61.54 billion in 2015, its population of 100 million still ranks among the world's poorest. The GDP value of Ethiopia 0.10 percent of the world economy.  The government's big spending carries risks, including high inflation and heavy state borrowing that has shrunk the credit available to private firms. Much more borrowing and spending is planned, and needed.

The May 4th AWiB monthly event began with the host Meti introducing the evening’s topic “Negotiating through Ethiopian Business Culture”. The first guest Aster Solomon, CEO of Mosaic Hotel, owner and manager of many businesses and a founder & Board Member at Enat Bank was introduced as an expert in navigating through the Ethiopian business environment. The second guest Kathy Marshall is the manager of Sabahar, Handmade Ethiopian Textiles that works with traditional weavers and producing fair trade artisanal clothing and fabric to international markets.

Aster Solomon began her presentation defining culture and its impact on business citing time management, honesty and loyalty in the Ethiopian business context. She listed lack of transparency, commitment, non-assertiveness, poor team work and ethics. She insisted that in her experience there’s no sharing of risks or benefits in the work place and lack of skills, motivation and ambition among the work force. She also stated that the Ethiopian labor law is weak and not conducive for businesses.

Her negative assessment included people’s unwillingness to work for private companies choosing instead to work for large or international corporations. She also mentioned flaws in policies especially within the education system resulting in under qualified graduates.

Aster recommends young people to get a quality education, be hard working and persevere. She also emphasizes the potential role religious institutions can play in influencing young people to become more ethical. She said young people should have discipline, a strong culture, be hard working, thrifty, and well-educated.

Aster urges speaking openly about the business culture, following that statement with “I don’t trust employees so I do not invest in them”. She claimed there aren’t any legal safety nets protecting her investments and she can easily shut down the business and move on.

“I like to work with women but they have a lot of problems when they get married or have children” she stated. Her company is now trying to organize childcare services to battle what she regards to be the cause of a decrease in efficiency.

She also stated that she doesn’t rely on references of applicants when filling a vacancy. “I don’t trust them” she said, admitting it might be part of her own bad business practice.

She summed up her presentation by stating that the Ethiopian culture is not conducive to work. She thanked her family for the support they provided, contributing to her success. She then asked why Ethiopians residing abroad are more successful than those living at home. An audience member later offered that perhaps it’s because there are more opportunities available abroad especially in higher education, referring to her own tenure in the US.

Kathy Marshall began her presentation with a beautiful video on weaving, showing the colorful dyeing, spinning, weaving and finishing process. The vibrancy of the hanging fabrics was a refreshing change after the W/zo Aster’s tirade that left this writer disheartened. 

Kathy used to work in NGOs until she decided to move into the private business sector, deeming it to be a better approach to change. Sabahar, a textile factory was established in 2004 to show the world the beautiful skill and workmanship that goes into producing Ethiopian fabric. Targeting the high end international market and using basic traditional equipment available in the country, Sabahar aims to create high-end goods. Kathy was unsure if she could comment on the Ethiopian culture and its effect on business and instead referred to her values as a Canadian. Her business philosophy is based on trust, the necessity of win-win scenarios and personal sacrifice for the common good. After stating that she loves what she does and the people she works with she continued to state the challenges her business has faced over the past decade.

Poor team work skills and inability to be strong decision makers compromises the active roles employees should be taking in the work place. Sabahar organizes frequent team buildings and empowerment trainings, creating a supportive space to make decisions and evening the playing ground. Kathy also mentioned the challenge with implementing a system of rewarding good work and promotions, stating some employees feel uncomfortable earning raises or promotions and becoming different from their coworkers. She said there are social pressures that may be unique to Ethiopia to assimilate and create fear of being rewarded.

Another challenge Sabahar mentioned was the lack of documentation and proper guidelines in regards to policy information for new businesses, especially the lack of transparency on regulations for foreigners. The little attention the public sector receives, especially pertaining to the development of technical skills, difficulties in the exporting process, the challenges of maintaining a supply chain and having consistent and reliable inputs regularly available has forced Sabahar to create multiple contingency plans.

Finally, Kathy stated, Sabahar has had a lot of support even though the company structure isn’t exactly what the Ethiopian government looks for in manufacturing and textile companies. This was followed by a question and answer session. A question about fostering good relationship with employees and creating a system that allows for good communication and productivity was asked. Aster answered that creating a system is always a struggle and she had difficulties with supervising employees and work details that constantly require her attention. She expressed her fear of employees leaving ‘once they get what they want’. The labor law, Aster stated, is in their favor, allowing employees to [receive whatever they deserve].

Kathy admitted that implementation and follow up for such a system is difficult but it was important to her to create a safe space where employees’ voices are important. By implementing a Kaisen Continual Improvement system for the past 6 years involving everyone in decision making, holding weekly meetings without management, choosing team leaders and coming up with solutions together, employees have come to foster feelings of personal responsibility and ownership of the work they do. She stated putting the people ahead of profit margins and respecting the workers’ choices has been a positive system. Transparency with profit and leveling with employees on how their personal input contributes to the larger picture has allowed a company with almost zero turnovers.

 Aster stated that, especially in her International School she owns and manages, trainings to improve the skills of employees to the extent of sending them abroad for higher education are offered to highly promising employees. Aster’s previous claim of not giving much attention to employee development was not addressed.

Meti’s final question to both guests asked what they would have done differently if offered the opportunity to go back to the moment they started their businesses. Aster replied that she would focus on self-development, going for her MBA, broadening her business into other sectors, working with banks and taking loans would be the changes she would have made.

Kathy stated that importing equipment for the dyeing process, learning more about how to run a business, becoming more aware of vulnerability and careful with the value chain would be improvements she wishes she had made earlier. Focusing on creating even more social impact, strategic product development and adding value to Sabahar’s product are things she would change in retrospect.

Meti then thanked the guests for sharing valuable information and sharing their experiences. She said she learned about ethics from Aster and the importance of sharing information from Kathy and ended the evening’s discussion by urging every attendee to spread the word about the AWiB Effect and May Forum to be held on May 25th at UNCC.


The international conference on ‘Women in Science,Innovation and Development’, the first in Ethiopia was hosted by Mekelle University from April 10 to 12 at Mekelle University in Mekelle, Ethiopia. The conference was a result ofMekele University’s appreciation of the disproportionate share of women inscience,research and leadership in the country and globally. The conference, therefore, was aimed at shedding light to the challenge and provide opportunities for young female scientists to communicate and network withwell established professionals around the globe and provide a platform where female scientists communicate and share theirideas,experiences and challenges. High profile women professionals,dignatorymemebrs of the community,federal and regional ministers( H.E Mrs. Demitu Hambisa,Minister of Women andChilderenAffarirs; H.E Mahbuba Adem,Stateminster of justice;H.E Kedisan Nega from Tigray regional state council) gender focal persons and academicians from all the 33 universities in Ethiopia, renowned scientists,humanitarians, innovators and entrepreneurs were cordially invited to give their key messages at the event.

Tuesday, 02 May 2017 06:34

AWiB May Forum 2017

AWiB’s annual Professional & Self Development May Forum will be held on May 25th, 2017 at UNCC

This year’s theme is “Strategic Leadership: Getting where you want to Be”

Monday, 01 May 2017 12:08

Gigi Sebsibe: In a class of her own!

Gigi Sebsibe was born and raised In Addis Ababa. After living and working in the USA for more than 30 years, she has come back home to contribute to Ethiopia’s economic development.  Gigi’s current position is as an owner & GM of a successful business, “Interior Motifs & Design (IMD) PLC, furniture manufacturing, interior designing & interior decorating company.

Gigi performs dual responsibility in line with the interior design and furniture production tasks of IMD. In the manufacturing field and designing,  she deals with the manufacturing staff, insures that customer orders are met as per the required specifications and pays a visit to the manufacturing plant two to three times a week to check the production line, quality control and motivate workers. On the interior design, she supervises the discipline of the architects’ and the designers’ works closely to get the best possible design concept and change it into a reality. Eighty percent of the time she does the design herself according to the specifications and she makes sure everything is up to the highest standard. Controlling the quality, color, texture of raw materials during purchase are strictly done by her alone to ensure her customers’ discriminating taste . 

Monday, 01 May 2017 12:08

Achieving An Intrinsic Purpose

AWiB Congratulates Meti on her new venture in the media business.

Metasebia Shewaye Yilma, a.k.a. Meti, has premiered her 2 television shows on LTV in April 2017; Let’s Go With Meti (???? ??? ??) and With Meti (??? ?? ). Meti’s travel and interview shows have started adorning the screens of LTV, the newest TV channel on NileSat (Frequency-11096 H, Symbol- 27500, FEC-5/6). 

Let’s Go With Meti (???? ??? ??) is an experiential travel show in which Meti explores like a tourist and experiences like a local to promote the concept of conscious travelling. Let’s Go With Meti (???? ??? ??) is a well-researched informative and adventurous travel series that exposes hidden gems, celebrates heritages, creates excitement and takes viewers off the beaten tracks. In the episodes, Meti is seen hanging out with locals, trying daring activities, uncovering least known features and telling other sides of stories. In the first two months, Meti will promote Addis Ababa for the foodies, history lovers, art enthusiasts, adrenaline junkies and shopaholics. In the following two months, Meti will take her audience to the outskirts of Addis for one-day-trips to show various places and activities that can capture the interests of diverse travellers. Then gradually Let's Go With Meti (???? ??? ??) will take the audience farther into Ethiopia as well as cross borders.

April’s monthly event revolved around the issue of social enterprise in the Ethiopian context, focusing on one social entrepreneur Ato Kibret Abebe. The host for the evening, Meti Shewaye Yilma opened the event by introducing the AWiB board members inviting attendees to visit the AWiB website for more news on current activities.

Ato Kibret Abebe is the founder ofTebita Ambulance the first privately owned pre-hospital emergency aid provider in Ethiopia. One of the top anesthesiologists in the country,Ato Kibret is social entrepreneur passionate about challenging individuals to think about their contribution to society and country.

Ethiopia is the third largest economy in Africa and among top 10 world's fastest growing economies. According to experts, the country has had double-digit economic growth over the past 10 years with an average 10.5 per cent growth. This noticeable achievement has caught the eye of large numbers of potential investors from around the Globe. Ethiopia is also actively pursuing to improve its investment climate by adopting more efficient processes to reduce bureaucracy in the areas of registration, logistics, and taxation. However, this economic progress doesn’t seem to translate to the local businesses.  Howprivate sector friendly is the business culture in the country? What is the bottleneck for the local businesses and yet attracts so much FDI? Could there be economic development without the participation of the local businesses? Are they participating? To what degree?

AWiB’s 2nd RTD of the month was on behavioral engagement for passion and fulfillment hosted by Edme Alem Giza,a life coach, consultant and psychiatrist from a company called Mind Morning. Before we started our discussion we had to understand those key words: Behavioral engagement, passion and fulfillment. Three forms of engagement are essential to find passion: Emotional engagement, behavioral engagement and cognitive engagement. And our main concern of the day was behavioral engagement. Achieving it requires the combination of our effort and persistence.  And this engagement is very important to finding our passion. He then explained the two types of passion. Harmonious which is what we should all aspire to have and obsessive which is highly held and negative. And lastly fulfillment is related to self-realization; self-actualization which means knowing our capacity and self- responsibility, which appears when we find our purpose. Purpose is most important element in all of this process.

Thursday, 30 March 2017 13:39

Recap HealthSmart on Contraception

Recap HealthSmart on Contraception

Are you ready for pregnancy? Are you at least aware of the safe options you have to prevent pregnancy?  Do you know how contraceptives work and what side effects they have? On March 18th, Saturday 2017 in the afternoon our program on HealthSmart: contraception was given by Dr. MunirKassa, a very well-known gynecologist from St. Paul hospital with three assistant nurses. The AWiB Resource Center (ARC) was filled with concerned a group of 20 people. We began the program by introducing ourselves which created a more comfortable environment. It got more interesting as Dr. Munir asked all of us to share any kind of myth we had heard about contraceptives. The myths going around were funny as well as concerning.

Page 1 of 42

AWiB would like to proudly acknowledge its partners for the year.