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Yonathan Aklilu, a 20-year-old entrepreneur, took the stage last week to pitch his agritech startup which aims to integrate AI into farming.

“Our journey began in the heart of war-torn Tigray, witnessing the struggles of local farmers. We embarked on a mission to revolutionize agriculture using AI, empowering them for sustainable growth,” Yonathan stated at the Ethiopian Startup Awards 2024, a chapter of the Global Startup Awards Africa event.

Akilo AI seeks to leverage AI for enhancing agricultural practices, offering solutions like AI-powered crop monitoring, and computer vision-based weed and disease detection.

Akofada (DFS Ethiopia)

“This innovative approach empowers farmers with valuable recommendations and boosts crop yields,” he told Shega at the awards hosted by the Global Innovation Initiative Group (GIIG) on June 3-4.

Akilo Tech offers a suite of software services including software development and tech consultancy, and has secured $20k in seed funding. Akilo AI, Yonathan’s flagship project, made Akilo Tech a finalist in three categories at the startup competition.

The two-day event, which drew the attention of the local startup scene, was hosted by GIIG in collaboration with the Ministry of Labor and Skills (MOLS), Ministry of Innovation and Technology (MINT), and Entrepreneurship Development Institute (EDI). It featured workshops and an awards show announcing the Ethiopian finalists. Akilo Tech is among the 68 startups that triumphed in the Ethiopia chapter from 731 entries. 

The Global Startup Awards is an international competition headquartered in Copenhagen. It’s one of the largest independent startup ecosystem competitions.

The organization utilizes its competition framework and events to run programs across the globe. Currently, the awards are active in over 120 countries, which are divided into 12 regions on three continents.

This year’s Global Startup Awards Africa competition attracted 11,900 entries from 54 African countries, with 24% of entries from the Eastern region originating in Ethiopia.

The competition in Ethiopia aims to recognize top Ethiopian startups that have excelled across over a dozen categories including AgriTech, Youth, GreenTech, FinTech, Women in Tech, HealthTech, and Mobility & Logistics.

eQub, Chapa, BeU, Arifpay, Blue Health, Zmall, and Disruptors Den are among the finalists across various categories.

While this was GIIG’s inaugural competition in Ethiopia, the 2024 GSA Africa Summit will mark the second time it’s hosted in Addis Ababa.

“Ethiopia’s selection as the host nation for the 2024 GSA Africa Awards holds immense significance and is already contributing significantly to the country’s growing reputation as a center for tech innovation,” said Muferiat Kamil, Minister of Labor and Skill.

The competition progresses through phases, with winners advancing through national and regional levels before converging at the continental GSA Africa Summit. Winners gain exclusive access to the GIIG Africa fund and the Global Startup Awards Alumni Network, offering networking, mentorship, and connections with regional and global stakeholders.

GIIG has previously funded six continental winners, each receiving between $200,000 and $500,000, including Kubik.

Kubik, which converts plastic waste into low-carbon, durable, and affordable building materials, was not only named a continental winner but also clutched the Startup of the Year on the global stage in 2023.

According to organizers, GIIG’s role extends beyond hosting awards to encompass the entire innovation value chain, supporting job creation and entrepreneurial talent across Africa.

“The selection of Addis Ababa as the host city for the GSA Africa Awards started at the Copenhagen Global Startup Awards in 2022,” reminisced Jo Griffiths, co-founder of GIIG Africa.

“There, we met Kidus, co-founder of Kubik and a GSA Africa winner himself, who suggested Addis as a fantastic location for the next event. Following his advice and upon visiting the city, we understood exactly why he made that recommendation.”

“Soon after, we formed partnerships and hosted the 2023 Africa Startup Awards in October.

This year’s GSA Africa Summit will be held around the same time this year. 

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Etenat holds a degree in Journalism and her master's in Public Relations. Previously, she served as a university lecturer and has five years of experience in communications, media, digital marketing, and consulting.