Global Innovation Initiative Group (GIIG). Africa, a catalyst for innovation across the African continent, is at the forefront of driving transformative initiatives such as the Global Startup Awards Africa, the GIIG Africa Foundation, and the GIIG Africa Fund. In an interview with EBR, the co-founder of GIIG Africa, Jo Griffiths, shares valuable insights on fostering collaboration between startups, investors, and government stakeholders, shedding light on the journey of GIIG Africa in empowering emerging startup nations and shaping a global Africa driven by innovation. EBR had the privilege of interviewing Jo Griffiths, the co-founder of GIIG Africa, to explore the organization’s impactful initiatives and gain insights into fostering collaboration among startups, investors, and government stakeholders.


Melika Bedri Mohammed CEO, Zamzam Bank

Melika Bedri Mohammed is the CEO of ZamZam Bank, Ethiopia’s first full-fledged interest-free bank. With a solid educational background in banking and finance, including a Diploma in Banking & Finance and a Master’s degree in Business Administration, Melika has honed her expertise in the intricacies of the financial sector. Throughout her career at the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (CBE), Melika showcased exceptional competence and leadership acumen. Rising through the ranks, she held vital roles, such as Chief Finance Officer and Vice President of Information Systems, where she played a pivotal role in driving the bank’s success and spearheading its technological transformation. As the CEO of ZamZam Bank, Melika continues to lead the institution with dedication, navigating regulatory frameworks and fostering a vision of ethical finance in Ethiopia’s banking sector. Under her leadership, ZamZam Bank has introduced a pioneering model that aligns with Sharia principles while embracing modern banking practices. This approach has positioned the bank as a beacon of ethical finance, catering to the needs of a diverse customer base. In an exclusive interview with EBR’s Eden Teshome, Melika shares insights into her journey, challenges, and vision for ZamZam Bank’s future. With her wealth of experience and deep understanding of the industry, Melika provides valuable perspectives on the role of ethical finance in driving economic growth and fostering financial inclusion in Ethiopia.


Fikru Tsegaye Wordofa is a certified insurance and reinsurance professional with two decades of experience in the industry. Fikru has studied and completed three master’s degrees – business administration, human resources and organizational development, and journalism and communications. He also has two bachelor’s degrees, about a dozen certificates, and several high-level specialized trainings in finance, insurance, business and management. At the moment, he is pursuing a Ph.D.

Fikru is the executive officer of strategy and business development and secretary to the board of directors at the Ethiopian Reinsurance (Ethio-RE). He was an acting chief executive officer (A/CEO) of Ethio-Re between September 2020 to March 2021. He also worked as a business development and corporate affairs manager in Ethio-Re. Before joining Ethio-Re, he served as marketing and strategic management director, head of microinsurance, strategic management team leader, principal researcher, and principal customer care and underwriting and claims section supervisor at the state-owned Ethiopian Insurance Corporation (EIC). 

Fikru writes regularly for several magazines and Journals. He has contributed extensively to the world of insurance and reinsurance, and his publications appeared in various Business, insurance, and reinsurance Journals, magazines, and newspapers, including the Journal of African Insurance Organization (AIO), Organization of Eastern and Southern Africa Insurers (OESAI) and African reinsurance publications. 

Fikru is the recipient of various international and national awards and recognitions, including the 2020 Global “Emerging Professional in Takaful and Retakaful of the Year Award” at the African Interest-Free Banking and Takaful Awards, and the AIO Best Book Author, First Rank Award (2023) for his book entitled Islamic Insurance (Takaful) In Ethiopia. EBR has the privilege of discussing with Fikru the state of the insurance business in Ethiopia and how the worsening political instability, war, drought, accident, and COVID made life more uncertain than before and affected the insurance business in Ethiopia. 


Boston Partners, the parent company of Kuriftu Resort & Spa, was founded by Tadiwos G. Belete, who currently serves as its CEO. Tadiwos was born in 1957, in the southeastern Ethiopian State of Oromia. At the age of 16, Tadiwos moved to Sudan in search of stability, security, and a better life for himself and his eight younger siblings. This was six years after the coup that resulted in the establishment of the Derg communist government, which caused severe economic and social upheaval in the country. Tadiwos has endured a great deal of adversity throughout his life, particularly during his time in Sudan, including health issues that nearly claimed his life. He often thinks back to his first job, scaring birds away on a small, privately owned farm. In 1983, he flew to the United States of America and was granted refugee asylum.

Tadiwos’s journey in the U.S. started with enrolling in a hairdressing school and working nights as a parking lot attendant. He also tried his hand in the restaurant business, promoting Ethiopian artists. He then decided to pursue his education and attended Roxbury Community College, attaining an associate degree in accounting, and Suffolk University in Boston, with a specialization in the same field. At the same time, he opened a salon on Newbury Street with seven other business owners.

Tadiwos spent 19 years working as a hairstylist in Boston, where he gained expertise and firsthand knowledge of what actually works and what doesn’t, as well as how to really run a successful business. In order to bring the Western spa experience and beauty culture to Ethiopia, Tadiwos, a happily married father of three who led a prosperous life in the US, bought a plot of land along Africa Avenue and started building the eight-story Boston Partners building in Addis Ababa. He established a salon, which he dubbed Boston Day Spa, after the renowned city of Boston, which had acted as a stepping stone to his great accomplishments.

Since the debut of Boston Day Spa, Tadiwos has expanded and opened the now well-renowned Kuriftu Resort in Bishoftu Town, in the State of Oromia, and Bahir Dar, in the State of Amhara. He also launched the Kuriftu resort in Awash. And notably, the Kuriftu Water Park is the first of its kind in Ethiopia. Tadiwos also proudly promises further mega projects in the State of Afar and the town of Arba Minch. The pan-African businessman is also building The African Village, due in September, which aims to serve as a melting pot for African culture and the hospitality industry,  offering visitors a unique experience. In this interview with EBR’s Addisu Deresse, Tadiwos talks passionately about the need to tap into Africa’s potential and boost local tourism, among other matters.


Andinet Feleke President, Ethiopian Tour Operators Association

Andinet Feleke, born and raised in Addis Ababa, had an upbringing typical of the city during. Starting from her early schooling at the Indian National School, she was known to be self-reliant. Andinet received a bachelor’s degree from Haramaya University, continued her education in the tourism industry, and then joined the University of South Africa, where she obtained a master’s degree in Business Leadership. Her first job was as a tour operating office, where she discovered her passion and potential for tourism. Along with her late husband, she founded Jacaranda Tour and Travel PLC in 2003, which is currently one of the top tour operating companies based in the capital. In addition, Andinet is the woman behind the opulent Gondar Hills Resort, which is perched on the highest mountain of the historical city of Gondar, overlooking the famed castles.


Eng. Belachew Chekene [PhD] Co-Founder, Wegenfund

Belachew Chekene (PhD) is a licensed chartered engineer with over 20 years of diversified academic and business expertise. He earned his BSc in Chemical Engineering at Addis Ababa University, followed by an MSc at Leeds University in the UK and a PhD from the University of Huddersfield, also in the UK.
Belachew has collaborated closely with cutting-edge industries while working in prestigious research facilities, and has published more than 45 articles in prestigious journals and conferences. He has held positions as a technical advisor for modeling, data validation, data management, and system development at UK’s major auto and power system companies. In Ethiopia, Belachew is the founder of Ethiopia International Professional Support for Abay (EIPSA), which is a volunteer professional association that has been working on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) since June 2013 with more than 270 professionals across the world.


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.

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