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Startup Ecosystem Players in Ethiopia held a discussion today conversing on how Ethiopia’s Digital Economy can be expanded to rapidly growing secondary or “Cheetah” cities.

The meeting, which was hosted today by the Ethiopia2050 Initiative and the Ethiopian Association of Civil Engineers in collaboration with other partners, aimed to identify ways for scaling Ethiopia’s startup ecosystem, which has been concentrated in the capital.

The Hybrid event took place at the Ministry of Mining and brought together various policymakers, entrepreneurs, innovators, academics, and other stakeholders.

During the meeting, players from the payment, logistics, digital ID, and support ecosystems shared their thoughts on how this demographic divide can be leveraged, with each player sharing their initiatives that are focused on regional cities.

The attendees added that investing in secondary cities with growth potential can balance the Addis-centric migration that is concentrating wealth and power in the capital city.

Launched four years ago, Ethiopia2050 is a collection of like-minded people with a focus on the future. As Ethiopia’s population continues to grow, reaching the 200 million mark by 2050, the group wants to generate forward-looking and practical ideas for policymakers and stakeholders.

The group released a Blue Ribbon Panel (BRP) report in 2020 that identified major challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for Ethiopia.

The report states that urban structure has been dominated by the capital city, which accounts for 20 percent of the national urban population.

Secondary cities like Adama, Hawassa, Jimma, Dire Dawa, Jigjiga, Sodo, and Debre Birhan accounted for 80 percent of urban residents in 2015.

These cities are also experiencing rapid urbanization and urban transition, transforming the nation in visible ways. The report adds that secondary cities have become the epicenters of the “youth bulge” and calls them “cheetah cities” for their remarkable fast growth.

Any meaningful discussion and planning to expand the start-up ecosystem of innovation and job creation should consider these cities, states the report.

Recent initiatives are also taking note of the potential that exists outside of Addis Ababa. Ethiopia’s first innovation hub and tech incubator, iceaddis, recently expanded to Hawassa. Meanwhile, a 2021 report by Startup Blink has recognized Jimma as the second-best city in Ethiopia for startups, following Addis Ababa.

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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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