Markos Lemma is co-Founder & CEO of iceaddis, one of the early innovation hubs and tech startup incubators established in 2011 in Addis Ababa. He is also Founder of SelamCompany—an education technology venture working on primary education and literacy.
Through the years, Markos has focused on establishing the technology ecosystem and providing business consulting specific to information communications technology (ICT). His businesses support social innovations and startup initiatives of the young. He is doing these impactful works while also working as a program coordinator for a global study on literacy in Ethiopia.

Markos is also an advocate and advisor on entrepreneurship and innovation policy while being a member of the advisory board for the Global Innovation Gathering (GIG). He runs a variety of classes, vibrant tech scenes, and several tech events in East Africa. In this interview with EBR’s Addisu Deresse, Markos discusses the emerging landscape of startups in Ethiopia, looking at the challenges and opportunities ahead.


Seid Mohammed Birhan
Founder & Chief Executive Officer, Ambassador Business Group

Born in Adi Awro, Tigray and growing up where there was no power, water, or even a bed to sleep on, Seid would first be introduced to the garment industry at the tender age of six when his father gave ETB600 to his older brother to start a business.

However, in a few years’ time, war broke out between the central government and armed rebels in Tigray and his entire family had to flee to the state’s capital, Mekelle. After doing some small entrepreneurial works, Seid moved to Addis Ababa where he began the journey of Ambassador Garment with a single used stitching machine which he bought for ETB1,000 in Mercato. Paying a monthly rent of ETB20 around 30 years ago, Seid would commence his positive and profitable trajectory.

The small business he has launched by hiring himself as an employee has now grown to employ thousands and fashionably-dress innumerable more with a vision of being a figure for a modern lifestyle brand. Now, Ambassador Garment is the destination for sharp men’s suits for the aspiring Ethiopian middle-class male. His small cloth patching machine has catapulted him to take on other business ventures. Seid Mohammed Birhan, founder of Ambassador Garment, Ambassador Hotel, and Ambassador Real Estate gave EBR’s Addisu Deresse an audience at the glinting Ambassador Mall to share his extraordinary and exemplary life as an individual and a businessman.


Having attended his medical education in Germany and then Canada, Melaku returned to engage in the medical business sector. Ten years ago, three of his friends and himself would establish WGGA, a visible player in eye clinical care. Specialized in hematology-oncology, Melaku works at the University of Alberta, Canada, and travels to Ethiopia every three months to manage his business. WGGA Eye Care Center is a full-service multi-specialty practice located in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Established in 2012, WGGA offers diagnostics, comprehensive eye examinations, and the most advanced vision correction treatments and procedures for eye diseases and disorders. The center has also worked in building and furthering the capacity of Ethiopian ophthalmologists and allied ophthalmic professionals and is a division of WGGA Medical Services PLC, an organization established by two Ethio-Canadians, who have actively been engaged in philanthropic medical initiatives in East Africa for more than 12 years. WGGA has been one of the beneficiaries of lease financing to procure top-end equipment. In this interview, EBR’s Addisu Deresse had an audience with Melaku about lease financing and his company’s plans for expansion.


Addis Alemayehou Chairman, Kazana Group

Born in Addis Ababa, Addis Alemayehou started education at St. Joseph School and would set off for Kenya at the early age of eight. After 10 years in the neighborly nation, the US and Canada became the destination for his tertiary education. Fourteen years later, Addis returned home in 2001 to assess starting a business. He has never looked back since nor has he ever considered living abroad again.

Addis’s first venture was Afro FM—the first English FM radio station in Ethiopia, now fully acquired by Walta Media and Communication Corporate, a state and party affiliated media operator. Thereafter, the marketing and advertising company 251 Communications was launched and is credited to have contributed to the currently flourishing advertisement industry while serving large clients like Emirates Airlines, VISA, Coca-Cola, Heineken, and the World Bank.

Addis recently founded Kazana Group as a holding company that would also invest in startups. A Founding Member of Kana TV, a Board Member of Dangote Ethiopia, and a Senior Advisor to the Albright Stonebridge Group are other features of his curriculum vitae. He has also been highly engaged in helping small and medium enterprises (SMEs) export their products to the United States under the American Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). In this interview, Addis sat down with EBR’s Addisu Deresse to converse on family, entrepreneur matters, and much more in between.


No person or thing seems to have been blamed for continuous price hikes in the Ethiopian economy like middlemen. Whether gas or groceries inflation, both current and past administrations have a way of blaming these players for their failed attempts to establish a strong and resilient market structure. Even though various factors may contribute to the failure to sufficiently tackle price increases, middlemen have indeed had their fair contribution to the problem. Over the past few years, electronic commerce platforms have been popping up, helping counterbalance their negative effect. Despite the impact of these attempts being on the smaller end, there is enough evidence worldwide to argue that e-commerce can indeed help in curbing the counterproductive effect of these trade players in the middle. In this article, starting with the story of a recent entrant in the e-commerce business, EBR’s Addisu Deresse analyzes the impact, considerations, and challenges of e-commerce platforms in an economy.


Aster Solomon
Chairperson, Addis Ababa Hotel Owners

Born and raised in Addis Ababa, Aster Solomon is a pioneering businesswoman who introduced geographic information systems (GIS) to Ethiopia through a company she founded with a colleague. Information System Services (ISS) was founded in a rather bold move by the entrepreneur at a time when not a lot of people were able to use computers and when government offices were using typewriters. She is also the owner of Mosaic Hotel as well as New English Private School, one of the leading private schools in Addis Ababa.

Aster’s leadership roles extend from the Addis Ababa Hotel Owners Association to the city’s Chamber of Commerce. She was elected to chair the board of directors of the metropolitan hotel owners’ association in September 2021. She is also one of the founding women of Enat Bank, the first and only women-initiated and -led financial institution in Africa and the Middle East. She has been an active member of the board of directors of the city’s chamber for several years. In this interview with EBR’s Addisu Deresse, she shares her multi-disciplinary involvement in various sectors as well as her experience in being an entrepreneurial woman.


Samuel Yalew Adela
Ethiopia Country Head, Mastercard Foundation

Samuel Yalew, as head of Mastercard Foundation – Ethiopia, leads a massive youth employment drive of one of the world’s largest foundations with global commitments of around USD4.4 billion. Holder of a Master of Arts from Addis Ababa University, he has over 25 years of experience in education, child rights advocacy, public health, and youth employment while working at public, private, and non-governmental organizations—with many in senior leadership roles in various large and multi-year projects in Ethiopia, Namibia, Canada, and Uganda. Samuel joined Mastercard Foundation in 2015 and is said to have played an essential role in developing vital strategic interventions and programs, including the foundation’s Young Africa Works strategy. Prior to his current engagement, in August 2019, he moved to Kampala, Uganda, to set up the foundation’s branch and Young Africa Works strategy there, which he successfully delivered. As of August 2021, Samuel has been the Country Head for Ethiopia, working towards the effective implementation of the Young Africa Works strategy to enable 10 million young women and men access dignified and fulfilling work which earns them the respect of their families and communities. In this interview with EBR’s Addisu Deresse, he talks about the foundation’s ambitious goal of creating millions of jobs in the decade


Anwar Soussa CEO, Safaricom Ethiopia

Anwar Soussa is a senior corporate executive who now serves as the founding CEO of Safaricom Telecommunications Ethiopia, a subsidiary of the Nairobi-based telecommunications and financial multinational, Safaricom.

Ethiopia announced the opening of the telecom sector in 2018. This materialized with the establishment of the Ethiopian Communications Authority (ECA) in the same year and subsequent licensing of the Global Partnership for Ethiopia (GPE) in 2021, which has now become Safaricom Ethiopia. This ends the 128 years of monopoly in Africa’s second-most populous country.

The company he leads is a consortium of multinational operators in which Kenya’s Safaricom is the largest with a 55.7Pct share, followed by Japan’s century-old Sumitomo Corporation with 27.2Pct, the CDC Group—currently named British International Investment—owning 10.9Pct, and Vodacom—the South African telecom company—retaining a 6.2Pct stake. GPE paid a USD850 million licensing fee.

Anwar holds an MSc in Business Administration earned from Concordia University, in Montreal. He has spent a significant portion of his career in senior management positions of telecommunications firms on the African continent, alongside stints in Cyprus and Papua New Guinea. Hired as Managing Director of Vodacom DRC and Chairperson of Vodacash in 2017, he is credited with turning the unit into the largest Vodacom operation outside of South Africa—exceeding USD500 million in gross revenue for the first time in 2020.


Daniel Waktole President, EPMSMA

Daniel Waktole is President of the Ethiopian Pharmaceuticals and Medical Supplies Manufacturers Association (EPMSMA). The PhD candidate in pharmacy is also author of Guide to Pharmaceutical Manufacturing and Marketing in Ethiopia and co-author of the first international edition of the Book-master Guide for Medical Representatives. In 2020, Daniel founded Kilitich Estro Biotech PLC—a joint venture with an Indian pharmaceutical manufacturer. His academic background, coupled with his preeminent role in the sector—both as a Businessman and President of his sector’s trade association—affords him quite an insight into the sphere. With the firm belief in the potential to make Ethiopia the hub of Africa’s pharmaceutical and medical supplies manufacturing, Daniel shares his outlook on the challenges, prospects, and overall investment climate in his line of business in this interview with EBR’s Addisu Deresse.


The idea of digital currency has been in the making for long. Still, challenges are ever-present in realizing the idea no matter how powerful the digital world has grown throughout the years, especially post-Covid. Recently, however, digital currencies are slowly taking shape to allow transactions across borders and the decentralizing of trading—abolishing the role of middlemen as well as regulations from financial institutions and governments. In similar fashion to the trade of hard currencies in financial markets, digital currencies including Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), Litecoin (LTC), and Tether (USDT), among others, are being traded on online digital currency markets for the end purpose of buying and selling goods and services in the physical world. Ethiopians—though late to the party and with insignificant investment levels and transaction volumes—seem to be slow-walking into this new digital reality. Some are now investing directly in currency trades while many others are mining digital currencies for extra revenue. EBR’s Addisu Deresse overviews and clarifies digital coinage is its transformative power.

Ethiopian Business Review | EBR is a first-class and high-quality monthly business magazine offering enlightenment to readers and a platform for partners.

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