First 137 Business Mentors and 20 Startups to Graduate under the Young Africa Works in Ethiopia Program

When I was told that my idea was selected to be a part of the startup incubation program by CALS/xHub Addis, I said, I have partners and I will not be afraid. In a male dominated tough business, I am trying to disrupt the bus transportation system using technology. Thank you CALS/xHub Addis and the Mastercard Foundation,” says Meklit Debebe, Founder of Afro Ticket
27 May 2021
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Addis Ababa — Ethiopia’s first cohort of 137 business mentors for startups and SMEs and 20 startup enterprises will graduate at a special ceremony to be held later this month. The graduates were trained through the Center for African Leadership Studies (CALs)/xHub, which are part of the Young Africa Works in Ethiopia program, a partnership with the Mastercard Foundation and Jobs Creation Commission. The event will take place at the Sheraton hotel in Addis Ababa on May 27, 2021 at 4PM.

From the 20 startups selected from Addis Ababa, Arbaminch, and Debrebirhan, a total of 36 entrepreneurs, including six women, participated in the training program. The participants were selected based on the strength of their business ideas in terms of solving local problems, scalability, affordability, and innovativeness.

During the one-year incubation period, the graduates received intensive training ranging from marketing to business law, and leadership development. While developing their business models, they were provided with internet access within a coworking space.

Building on the training, graduates participated in networking and experience-sharing sessions with other startups, successful entrepreneurs, and different role models in the ecosystem.  The entrepreneurs received seed funding as well as business development and services designed to accelerate their growth and success.

After their graduation, the startups will be engaged in various sectors, including digital technology, coffee production and sales, education, health, tourism, transportation, agriculture, and media communications.

“I know that my business idea is very big; it even sometimes overwhelms me. The idea creates an opportunity for me and for those around me, and it also has a chance to change the way we do business in Ethiopia. I was encouraged and decided to pursue “Freelancesira” after being accepted to the CALS/xHub Addis startup program supported by the Mastercard Foundation. I would like to say thank you to CALS/xHub and the Foundation,” says Bezawit Admasu, Founder of Freelancesira.

“CALS/xHub’s mission is to provide a robust support system for entrepreneurs and transform them into exceptional leaders and market influencers. We believe that an innovative and collaborative hub is the catalyst that young entrepreneurs need to align their skills to fit real business demands,” said Tewodros Tadesse Araya, Founder and CEO, Center for African Leadership Studies (CALS), xHub Addis.

“Since the incubation and acceleration hub were founded nine years ago, the lack of mentors and business coaches has always been a challenge in the ecosystem. Now, or the first time, we have 137 mentors entering the startup ecosystem,” adds Tewodros Tadesse Araya.

The Center for African Leadership Studies (CALS)/xHub Addis plan to scale the program and train 10,000 mentors over the next three years using the first cohort as trainers.

The graduation ceremony celebrates the dedication, ingenuity, and achievement of these impressive young entrepreneurs who have completed the year-long incubation program. Guests will enjoy short video testimonials from the innovative startups. The hope is that the program will inspire other young people to unlock their potential. It also strongly reinforces that startups will receive the support they need to achieve their goals while also contributing to the economic growth and prosperity of the country.

“This program is designed to provide holistic support to entrepreneurs—and the need for it has become more urgent in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. More than ever, we need initiatives that strengthen the entrepreneurship ecosystem and contribute to enabling 10 million young Ethiopians to access dignified and fulfilling work over the next decade,” said Alemayehu Konde Koira, Ethiopia Country Head, Mastercard Foundation.

About the Center for African Leadership Studies

The Center for African Leadership Studies (CALS) transforms African medical, business, governmental, and nonprofit institutions and individuals with training, coaching, and organizational development that produces effective, values-based servant-leaders. The Center translated international evidence-based leadership development best practices into local cultural circumstances to meet specific needs with indigenous forward-looking solutions that respect traditions. xHub is an initiative of Center for African Leadership Studies (CALS) founded in 2014. With CALS as a strategic partner, our mission is not only to provide a strong support system for our entrepreneurs, but to transform them into great leaders as well.

About the Jobs Creation Commission

The Jobs Creation Commission (of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia) is established under the Office of the Prime Minister to advance the government’s goal around employment and job creation. JCC is uniquely positioned to lead, govern, and coordinate the jobs creation agenda at the national and subnational levels. It is committed to guide the investment of government, the private sector, and development partners to high-growth sectors through policy analysis and innovation; and to align skills development with market needs.

Directly overseen by the Prime Minister’s office, JCC is mandated to Coordinate, Govern, and Monitor all Government and Non-Government efforts in creating jobs. With a mission to drive job creation through innovation and action, the Commission aims to facilitate the creation of 3 million jobs by 2020, 14 million by 2025 and 20 million by 2030. The commission has facilitated and supported the creation of 2.4 million jobs to date.

Follow JCC on:

About the Mastercard Foundation

Mastercard Foundation works with visionary organizations to enable young people in Africa and in Indigenous communities in Canada to access dignified and fulfilling work. It is one of the largest, private foundations in the world with a mission to advance learning and promote financial inclusion to create an inclusive and equitable world. The Foundation was created by Mastercard in 2006 as an independent organization with its own Board of Directors and management.

For more information on the Foundation, please visit:

Media Contacts:

The Center for African Leadership Studies

Tewodros (Teddy) Tadesse Araya
Founder and CEO, Center for African Leadership Studies (CALS), xHub Addis
Cel: +251 911 701361

Mastercard Foundation

Simret Yasabu
Lead, Program Communications, Ethiopia
Tel: +251 975048876

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