Events in Ethiopia’s innovation ecosystem, though spirited, often remain small-scale affairs. Lacking large marketing budgets, they depend on grassroots efforts within their community. While this grassroots approach has its merits, it inadvertently creates a closed loop where familiar faces dominate events, leaving many startups unnoticed in the shadows.
Yet, Ethiopia’s innovation landscape extends far beyond these limited circles. A recent study done by Shega for JICA and the Ministry of Innovation and Technology titled Addis Ababa Startup Ecosystem identified over 300 startups in Addis Ababa alone. This entrepreneurial vigor is not confined to the capital, as startups are also emerging in cities like Hawassa, Adama, Jimma, and various regional states.
Furthermore, Ethiopia’s startup scene is not just growing in numbers but also in influence. Both local and foreign-founded startups, such as Goodayon, Gebeya, YeneHealth, Dodai, Teraki, Jamii.one, and Kubik, are attracting investments from international backers. The global stage is taking note too. Kubik, an environmental technology startup based in Kenya and Ethiopia, was crowned Startup of the Year at the Global Startup Awards in 2023. In 2022, GoodayOn’s gig platform clinched the World Summit Award in the Smart Settlements and Urbanization category.
Given Ethiopia’s population of 120 million, it’s only natural that the country should host its own internationally recognized event dedicated to innovation and startups. Across the globe, such innovation-focused events are commonplace, spanning various sectors. Mobile money enthusiasts converge at annual GSMA events; gamers gather at Gamescom; and crypto and AI enthusiasts have events like the Nvidia GTC and World Blockchain Summit. In the startup realm, GITEX, a global tech summit at the Dubai World Trade Center, has gained prominence.
In Africa, events such as the Africa Fintech Summit and the Africa Tech Festival are held, predominantly taking place in cities like Lagos, Nairobi, and Johannesburg.
Ethiopia, having hosted a few global and continental conferences this year, is now gearing up for its indigenous summit. Scheduled for October 12 and 13, the Enkopa Summit is a highly anticipated event centered around entrepreneurship and innovation.
Pioneered by Laurendeau & Associates (L&A), a management consultancy deeply engaged with Ethiopia’s startup ecosystem, and organized by Flawless Events under the auspices of the Ethiopian Ministry of Labor & Skills, the Enkopa Summit aims to become an annual industry event dedicated to innovation, technology, and collaboration in entrepreneurship within Ethiopia and the East-Africa region. Originally planned at the newly inaugurated Science Museum, the venue had to be shifted to Millennium Hall due to conflicting bookings, despite Enkopa having reserved the space several months in advance.
The Enkopa Summit is trying to bring together 150 speakers from more than 25 countries, including key figures from Ethiopia’s innovation space, including state ministers, investors, founders, and technology innovators. Institutions like Visa, EthSwitch, UNDP, and International Trade Ceneter have joined the summit as sponsours. With a mission to redefine how such events are conducted in Ethiopia, Enkopa appears poised to become the cornerstone event in the nation’s innovation ecosystem.
Who is Enkopa?
Enkopa was launched in 2021 by the Jobs Creation Commission (JCC) as a national movement to celebrate and promote Ethiopian entrepreneurship stories. According to a case study titled Branding of a National Entrepreneurship Ecosystem by L&A, Ethiopia’s entrepreneurship ecosystem suffers from misrepresentation due to information asymmetry. This lack of information hampers talent and capital influxes into the ecosystem. To address this, Laurendeau & Associates suggested establishing Ethiopian Entrepreneurship at Work (Enkopa) as the defining brand of entrepreneurship in Ethiopia, creating a national movement to celebrate and promote Ethiopian entrepreneurship.
Enkopa aimed to bring all ecosystem stakeholders—engineers, startups, ecosystem builders, entrepreneurs, policymakers, and educators—together to foster a thriving entrepreneurship ecosystem. The term “Enkopa” translates to “gold ore” in Geez, indicating the precious potential of Ethiopian entrepreneurs. The initiative swiftly gained momentum through the establishment of task forces and involvement in the drafting process of the Ethiopian Startup Act, a law yet to be passed.
After several months of relative quiet, Enkopa announced its summit. “At Enkopa, we designed numerous interventions for the digital economy, spanning areas like the gig economy, outsourcing, and entrepreneurship funds. The plan was always to transition these projects to the private sector. For instance, the Ethiopian Outsourcing Association was established, fulfilling one of Enkopa’s objectives,” explained Bernard, one of the key figures behind Enkopa.
Enkopa Summit is a joint venture between L&A and Flawless Events. Bernard elucidated his rationale for this investment: “There’s an excess of free money flowing into this country, which is making us lazy. Building something worthwhile requires facing challenges. If you’re truly committed, you should be willing to invest in it.”
However, Enkopa isn’t just another tech event. It’s an industry event aiming to host thoughtful, insightful discussions on topics rarely touched in Ethiopia. The summit spans four stages, each dedicated to specific themes. The main stage will host in-depth conversations on topics like corporate venture capital and attracting the diaspora community. The Espresso Stage will facilitate shorter networking sessions, akin to casual coffee conversations. EnkopaX Stage aims to showcase the diverse work of Ethiopian entrepreneurs and innovators across multiple sectors. Lastly, the launch stage will introduce programs within Ethiopia’s innovation ecosystem.
Tickets for the two-day Enkopa Summit are priced at around 8,500 birr, with single-day access available for 5,500 birr. Bernard emphasized, “We offered substantial early bird discounts and complimentary tickets to associations and startups.
Enkopa organizers anticipate around 2,000 attendees. Regardless of reaching this goal, the intention and groundwork for making the Summit an annual event are firmly in place.
“The primary focus is not just the content; it’s about forging connections and networks. The success of this summit will be measured by the business it fosters. Building on this experience, we plan to launch the Summit next year around the same time,” added Bernard.