Ethiopia’s young people launch SEWF 2019 with music and dancing

Young people launched the Social Enterprise World Forum 2019 in Ethiopia with an energetic blast of music, food and dancing as the SEWF Youth Week began on Sunday afternoon.

Youth Week is just one of the many events running alongside the main programme of the Social Enterprise World Forum which kicks off this afternoon at Addis Ababa’s UN Conference Centre.

The focus of Youth Week is on “creating opportunities and enabling young people to fulfil their potential, resilience and networks”, said Tigist Zerihum, the British Council in Ethiopia’s youth project manager.

Under-15-year-olds make up 44% of Ethiopia’s population and their potential to make the changes that the world needs was also discussed at the Education and Academic Symposium which took place on Monday at the Hilton hotel in Addis Ababa.

“How can our education systems better prepare our children to meet the challenges that await them in an uncertain future?” asked Martin Hope, head of society at the British Council at the start of the day. 

Dr Worku Negash, senior adviser to Ethiopia's ministry of higher education and science, pointed out that Ethiopia was investing heavily in its education system with a quarter of the national budget devoted to it. “There is very strong government will to educate its people,” he said.

Participants considered the role of schools and universities worldwide in creating citizens with the skills, knowledge and attitudes necessary to overcome the problems facing the next generations. 

Summing up, Juliet Cornford, senior consultant social enterprise, at the British Council, said: “There is one word that keeps coming up  the concept of agency. We have to put the voice and the power and the decision-making back into the hands of young people.”

On Tuesday, Peter Holbrook, CEO of Social Enterprise UK, emphasised the importance of social entrepreneurs stepping up their efforts to combat the global problems of inequality and climate change.

Speaking at the Policy Forum, a day that brought together policy-makers with practitioners from around the world, Holbrook said: “We need to up our game, we need to be more ambitious, we need to understand the gravity of the situation.”

Participants shared how they had influenced their governments to take account of social enterprise in policy-making, emphasising the importance of gathering internationally comparable data to prove the scope and impact of their work to politicians.

“Social enterprise has to be at the heart of our governments,” said Holbrook. 

In Ethiopia, this is beginning to happen. Ato Asfaw Abebe of the Federal Small and Medium Manufacturing Industries Promotion Authority, explained that the Ethiopian government was currently developing a new national entrepreneurship strategy and that the government considered it was important to include social enterprise in that. 

You are “assured of continued support and commitment from the government,” he said. 

During Monday and Tuesday dozens of SEWF delegates also took the opportunity to visit social enterprises around Addis Ababa, including Tebita Ambulance, Selam Children's Village, textile enterprise Sabahar and Shega Crafts.

  • Pioneers Post is reporting from the Social Enterprise World Forum 2019 all this week. Stay right up to date by signing up for the FREE Pioneers Post newsletter now here. A special SEWF edition will be published tomorrow.

Photos by Synergy Habesha and Digital Storytellers