Business and Bureaucracy: Ethiopia Entrepreneurs Overcome Hurdles

Ethiopia's first online restaurant delivery service, Deliver Addis, must contend with major hurdles that would stall many entrepreneurs in more developed nations (AFP Photo/Christina Goldbaum)

AFP

By Karim Lebhour

Addis Ababa – The large open plan office with staff behind sleek computers looks like any newly-started modern business.

But Ethiopia’s first online restaurant delivery service, Deliver Addis, must contend with major hurdles that would stall many entrepreneurs in more developed nations.

Setting up any business is a challenge, but in Ethiopia, those range from daily operating headaches such as on-off Internet — stalling the highly time-sensitive orders on which it depends — to even more fundamental business challenges.

As the country’s banking and payments systems are still in their infancy, electronic payments are impossible, thus creating a huge hurdle for growth.

“The Internet goes out a couple of times a week — when that happens, there is not much we can do but rely on phone lines to take orders,” said Feleg Tsegaye, manager of Deliver Addis.

But he also believes the Horn of Africa nation — the second most populous on the continent — offers enormous opportunities.

Tsegaye was born and brought up in the United States but moved to Ethiopia, the homeland of his parents, hoping to tap into a still largely untapped but swiftly growing market he believes is one of the most promising on the continent.

“The IT sector is still in its infancy — typically in these markets there is a way to transfer money very quickly and very easily, but here that doesn’t exist quite yet,” he added.

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