25 May 2019

Ethiopia: State Creativity Hub to Come Online

The government, with the support of development partners, is setting up a state-owned creativity hub for entrepreneurs and innovators with a seven million Birr investment.

The hub will be located inside the premises of the Federal Small & Medium Manufacturing Industry Development Agency located at Mexico in front of Wabi Shebelle Hotel.

Lying on 172Sqm of land, the creativity centre will provide a place where entrepreneurs, innovators, business people, investors and academics can easily meet, work together and transform their ideas into reality. The centre will also have a co-working area, incubation offices, auditorium, library, showroom, laboratory, a multimedia room and a café.

Expected to be completed in a half year, the hub is designed to accommodate 200 people at a time and create jobs for 20 people. The innovators will also be able to use the workshops inside the Agency.

Financed by the Italian Agency for Cooperation & Development and implemented through the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, the construction of the hub was started two weeks ago. The new facility does not involve major construction work as it will be built between two adjacent buildings with a connecting facility at the Agency.

The construction involves the renovation and the connection of the library and emporium of the Agency, according to Wubshet Tibebu, director of infrastructure development and cluster centres development at the Agency. The Agency was established with the aim of regulating small and medium-manufacturing enterprises and has existing facilities for textile, woodwork, leather and metal workshops.

The five-year-old firm, Benmcon Construction, is hired as a contractor for the hub development with on-site supervision to be conducted by Mulugeta Consulting Architects.

The funding came from the Upgrading of the Ethiopian Leather Products Industry Project. The major focus of the Project is to support micro and small-enterprises engaged in the manufacturing of leather footwear and leather goods operating in Addis Abeba.

"While being open to every innovation, we give priority for ideas in the leather industry," said Asfaw Abebe, director general of the Agency. "We want to focus on leather because of the abundant resources."

The hub will have a membership requirement with a minimal registration fee.

"We intend to make a registration fee, because we only want determined people to come to the hub," said Asfaw. "We don't want it to be just a place to hang out."

Though this will be a state-owned creativity hub, there are five private incubation centres including Ice Addis, X-hub Addis and Bluemoon. The incubation centres provide working space, training and coaching, as well as seed funding for start-ups.

Another hub established by the Ministry of Innovation & Technology with a six-million-Birr investment has been established at the Tracon Building along Churchill Avenue, which aims to encourage innovators in the technology sector.

In a country where 70pc of the population is below the age of 35, private incubation centres cannot cover it all, according to Biruk Yosef, an incubation coordinator at BlueMoon.

"The ventures of the government into the area is great," said Biruk.

Biruk also has a fear that such institutions might end up being like the many youth centres that were built a few years ago and cautions the state to work on its capacity.

Biruk also suggests that the government focus on improving policies, institutional frameworks and supporting existing centres. He also thinks that the state should outsource its creativity hubs and incubation centres to private institutions.

Currently, there are around 15,000 small and medium manufacturing industrial companies engaged in the production of chemicals, construction materials and textile industry. Small industrial companies employ six to 30 employees and have a capital of 1.5 million Br or less, while medium manufacturing industrial companies employ 31-100 people with a capital that does not exceed 20 million Br.

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