Yehdego Abeselom CEO, Keste Damena

Abeselom Yehdego was a legendary businessman, humanitarian, patriotic Ethiopian, and a champion of the underdog. He made a name for himself with his forward thinking and his ability to see far beyond his years in how he operated and conducted himself. Abeselom had humble beginnings but eventually established Keste Damena Foam & Plastic Industry in 1995 – a mega business that is going strong today. When the legendary businessman passed away in 2012, his eldest son – Yehdego Abeselom – took over the helm.

Having completed his education in the US, Yehdego returned to Ethiopia in 2008. As someone who studied filmmaking, he made his first splash as the producer and director of “13 Months of Sunshine” – a film that debuted successfully. Yehdego’s first attempt to make a name for himself as an independent businessman and step out from under the shadow of his father was the launch of Jolly Bar, whose motto “Think Outside of Bole’’ made a lasting impression on Addis Ababa’s nightlife.


Kebour Ghenna served as President of the Addis Ababa Chamber of Commerce for four years beginning 1997; and as President of the Ethiopian Chamber of Commerce. He also founded and still serves as the Executive Director of Initiative Africa (IA), a non-governmental organization known in recent years for organizing the Addis International Film Festival, Ethiopia’s annual week-long event showcasing documentary films from around the world.

Kebour is also the Executive Director of the Pan-African Chamber of Commerce and Industry. He ran as a candidate for a prominent political party during the sixth national elections last year but withdrew from active membership soon after. Kebour is never hesitant to participate and partake in issues that he thinks matter and have the potential to bring about a change in Ethiopia. He has had a front-row seat to the developments and challenges of the private sector for over two decades and regularly reflects on the sector and overall development endeavors in the country on social and mainstream media platforms.

Now, as Ethiopia is eagerly searching for peace, he has once again taken a stance through Initiative Africa. He believes that peace is not an issue the government can tackle alone, and calls upon the business community to take part. Kebour speaks to EBR’s Lydia Tesfaye on his latest initiative, and the role private sector can play in securing a lasting peace.


Abebe Zeluel
Urban and Regional Planner

Abebe Zeleul is a senior national advisor at UN-Habitat. He has long years of experience in urban development issues working both for the government and in the private sector. He had worked with the former Ministry of Construction & Urban Development as a member of the strategic advisory committee. His expertise in advisory includes urban planning, quality assurance, policy formulation, legal drafting, strategic plan preparation, and more. He had also served the Addis Ababa City Administration as head of the Land Development Bank & Urban Development office. He has lectured at the Civil Service University and given short-term training on various urban issues. He has published papers and articles in collaboration with various organizations including UN-Habitat on the issues of urbanization and urban development, among others. In this interview with EBR’s Addisu Deresse, Abebe gives his two cents on the challenges facing local revenues in Ethiopia and overall progress in urbanization.


Yonas Admasu
Founder & CEO, Lovegrass Ethiopia

Yonas Admasu was born in 1968 into a rural farming family in northern Ethiopia. He graduated with a BSc in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from the University of Greenwich in London in 1996, after which he began his first job as an engineer—working on mobile technology at Chase Electronics. Thereafter, he continued his studies and received his master’s degree with distinction in Business and Information Technology in 2001.

As Yonas had always wanted to work in the banking and finance sector, he pursued further trainings in financial risk management and quantitative finance—becoming certified as a Financial Risk Manager (FRM) from the Global Association of Risk Professionals (GARP) in 2004. This paved his career towards working as a Support Analyst at the interest rate derivatives desk of the global banking giant BNP Paribas. He then proceeded to join the world-renowned investment banks JP Morgan and Credit Suisse, ascending to Vice President (VP) of the emerging markets division of the latter in 2013.

After having built a career that many would envy, Yonas decided to return home to start a health-food processing facility in 2015. Although this had always been a dream, his decision was triggered by an encounter that he had with teff products at a supermarket in Britain which were clearly not of Ethiopian origin.


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.


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

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