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The Ethiopia Social Entrepreneurship Forum (ESEF) was officially launched on Thursday, September 1st 2016.  ESEF is a movement which seeks to drive forward a sector with the potential to transform lives across the country.  It brings together innovators, entrepreneurs, investors and actors from government, businesses, and NGOs who will join forces to empower social entrepreneurs to create lasting positive change.

The development of the forum is driven by NGO Reach for Change Ethiopia, with the support of Vantage Consultancy, with the vision of creating an environment in which social entrepreneurs can thrive across Ethiopia.  The launch took place at the Swedish Embassy and involved people from all different sectors, all inspired by the power and potential of social entrepreneurship to improve lives.

Following a warm welcome from the Swedish Ambassador Jan Sadek, one of the first priorities of the launch was to establish a common understanding of what social entrepreneurship is and how it needs to be defined within an Ethiopian context.  Anna Chojnicka, who leads Reach for Change Ethiopia, offered a few definitions from around the world, but ultimately concluded that these definitions are fluid and we need to establish what makes most sense in Ethiopia.

A social enterprise is an organization whose primary mission is to create positive social impact for communities or for the environment, and whose work is underpinned by a strong business model, meaning it can stand on its own two feet.

Frealem Shibabaw, founder of the Ethiopian School Meal Initiative and panel member for the launch, reminded us that Ethiopia is by nature a social country. People help each other all the time, and this social spirit can be harnessed by a sector which can create real, scalable and sustainable social change.  ‘The fact that 40 percent of our kids are malnourished should bother us’, she said.  Taking responsibility for these challenges should be a collective effort.

Following a panel discussion that included social entrepreneurs Frealem Shibabaw and Tesfanesh Tadesse, Anna Chojnicka, Markos Lemma (co-founder of iceaddis), and Sirak Mamo, Director at a new Government Ministry, the Federal Small and Medium Manufacturing Industries Development Agency, the 80 attendees were encouraged to give their ideas on how the forum should be developed.

The forum will be an ongoing collaborative, cross-sector movement, holding events and workshops to support social entrepreneurs across Ethiopia.