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A group of entrepreneurs and academics have established a startup incubation center in Jijija with the goal of nurturing a vibrant startup ecosystem in the Eastern City.

Guul Club, which opened its doors in 2022, provides a working space, short-term training, as well as support and networking for startups and businesses.

Its three co-founders, who have seven years of experience in business, technology, and consulting, envision their Club as a platform to promote new startups.

“Jijia has not seen many initiatives targeting startups and innovation. Some nonprofit organizations do some work, but these efforts have not been permanent. We want Guul to be a center for the young community that exposes them to the world of startups,” said Guled Abdi, co-founder and manager of Guul.

The club also offers value-added services such as mentoring, legal, and technical support, as well as networking opportunities with academia, financial institutions, industries, and other institutions.

Located on the 3rd floor of the Rebah Building, Guul Club also provides co-working space. The club provides a full-service, fully furnished facility to its members. The co-working space has WiFi, and basic office equipment such as a printer, scanner, and copier. The workspace also provides free water, coffee, and tea.

Besides the workspace, Guul Club rents its space for meetings and event facilities to cater to the jijiga’s young community. At Guul Club, a day pass for a hot desk for one person costs 250 birr per day.

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Guul Club says it has incubated and accelerated 12 businesses and connected 300 freelancers. However, the team adds their work has not been easy.

“Some startups, instead of choosing to develop their ideas just go for funding or grant money. In addition, awareness has been low, and we have not had support,” added Guled.

Co-working and incubation centers are seen as key elements in the startup ecosystem and help early-stage startups refine their ideas, create their business plans, work on products for market fit, and network with other start-ups.

While there are over a dozen incubation centers in Addis Ababa, regional cities have not been lucky. It was only recently, that iceaddis branched out to Hawassa.

Jijiga, the capital of the Somali Region, also holds promise for observers due to its tech-savvy community. Located 620 km from Addis Ababa, Jijiga has a thriving mobile money market.

Several mobile-money providers, such as HelloCash, Sahay, and EBirr, operate in the region and have enjoyed significant success.

Guul’s co-founders, who self-funded the center, are also working to expand the space by collaborating with partners.

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Kaleab Girma, an Addis Ababa-based reporter and researcher, with over six years of experience in the field. He currently serves as Shega's Editor-in-Chief and specializes in reporting on small businesses, innovation, technology, and startups in Ethiopia.

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