Ethiopia successfully hosts the Social Enterprise World Forum
The 12th Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF) – the leading forum for international exchange and collaboration in social entrepreneurship and social investment – was held in Addis Ababa from 23rd–25th October, the first time the forum was held in a developing country.
The week-long forum brought together around 1,200 delegates from 70 countries and territories, ranging from social enterprise leaders, policy makers, development partners, private sector representatives, academics, practitioners and supporters.
The forum promotes sustainable economic growth for human development and offers an opportunity to establish new relationships and create synergies for working together to increase the visibility of social enterprise on the global stage. It also created a platform for on-going collaboration connecting people across Africa and the world, from advanced and developing economies.
The forum was complemented with a concurrently held youth week, policy forum, academic symposium, study tours and networking evening cultural receptions.
Speaking at the opening of the Forum, Dr Tilaye Gete, Ethiopia’s Minister for Education said: “This is the right time for Ethiopia to host the Social Enterprise World Forum.” To cheers and applause, he noted Prime Minister Abiy’s Nobel Peace Prize award for his success in ceasing the long-running conflict between his country and Eritrea. “We are pleased to have you here to celebrate that with us,” he said.
Against the backdrop of the many positive changes that are happening throughout Ethiopia, Dr Tilaye highlighted his hope that social enterprise would contribute more to the country’s development.
“Our ambition is for the Social Enterprise World Forum to be a catalyst…to create an environment in which social enterprise flourishes,” he said.
He added that the movement had the “country-wide commitment of the government of Ethiopia”.
Dr Hirut Kassaw, the Minister for Culture and Tourism echoed his message. Social entrepreneurship was “one of the most important initiatives” for Ethiopia, she said.
Kibret Abebe, president of Social Enterprise Ethiopia and founder of Tebita Ambulance, agreed that it was an “exciting time” for the country. He added: “We want the government to understand that social business is the best strategy to lift Ethiopia out of poverty…and to create a fair, inclusive economy for all.”
Speaking at the closing ceremony, Gerry Higgins, founder and managing director of the Social Enterprise World Forum, said:
“Ethiopia has been outstanding. If there was a better way to showcase the energy and the enterprising potential of this country, I can’t think of it.”
Moses Anibaba, the British Council’s regional director for Sub-Saharan Africa, said: “It’s been an amazing week. I cannot think of a better time or a better place in history to be alive, to be an African. This continent is the continent of now and of the future. I have an unwavering belief and conviction about what this region has to offer.”
He added: “I think we have been part of history and I think we will look back and see the difference this forum has made.”
Dr Ephrem Tekle, the commissioner for Ethiopia’s Job Creation Commission, said: “We the government of Ethiopia recognise the importance, the value and untapped potential of social enterprise. We have not been open about saying that before.”
He added: “We see a great value in social enterprise in addressing the challenge of the poor, the challenges of our society.”
He said Ethiopia’s social enterprises required support, particularly financial support. He also highlighted the importance of introducing a regulatory and legal framework. Although, he said, the government could not promise to fulfil all the 60 recommendations it had received from the social enterprise sector, he said: “We can actually help you make a difference. At least we will be side by side working together to make a difference – that is the promise I have for you.”
“Go change the world,” he said, “because there has never been a time when this world needs it more.”
At the close of Forum it was announced that the next Social Enterprise World Forum will be held in the town of Halifax in Nova Scotia from 23rd to 25th September 2020.
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