The Anglo-Ethiopian Society

Small Business Development in Ethiopia

Author - John and Jean Broadbent

Gail Warden’s piece in the Summer 2007 issue of News File about Business and Development in Ethiopia was very informative but prompts the question “What about home grown business development?” One needs to travel in Ethiopia only very briefly to appreciate that there are many talented people with great potential in varied fields of activity struggling to realise that potential through lack of resources and business know-how.

Watercolour by Tegegne Yirdaw, Lalibela
Photo - © John & Jean Brodbent - 2007

On a very small scale a case in point is Tegegne Yirdaw. Born in Lalibela, Tegegne is a self-taught water colour artist and examples of his work are illustrated here. Clearly he has talent with a brush but nowhere to turn for advice on business development, access to markets etc., all of which is an unknown world to him.

He has built himself a small gallery near the Roha Hotel and relies upon catching tourists with enough time in their itinerary to visit the gallery and see his work. Once there the visitor is offered a portfolio of original works inspired by Lalibela - priests, churches (minus the scaffolding and temporary roofs!), domestic scenes and local landscapes. However his stock is only small being all original works. Thus once he achieves a few sales he needs to close down his gallery whilst he creates fresh originals.

His problems are obvious. Even securing a supply of watercolour paints and paper is difficult. He has no facility to produce prints or other forms of his work to a standard and at a price acceptable to tourists. He has been unable to attract interest from tourist shops in other centres, but because he can produce only original works he could not supply enough stock even if other outlets were available.

To encourage Tegegne we have had a range of 6 cards produced in the UK. Each one costs us just over £1 to produce. We give him half of the print run which he sells at 25 birr. We seek to recover the UK production costs by selling the other half at twice cost and then re-invest the proceeds in the next batch. We have no expertise in this field. It is only on a very small scale and not economical. It remains to be seen how long we can sustain this approach because we have to find a UK market to raise the next lot of money. It is in any event only scratching at the surface of Tegegne’s difficulties.

In this Millennium year it would be very fitting if some constructive schemes were initiated to help people like Tegegne develop their talents into productive businesses. Ethiopia surely needs to maximise her people’s talents now more than ever.

To view the full range of cards (no greeting) and to purchase at £2 each (includes envelope) plus 50p p&p please contact:
Email:; Phone: 01905 748214

First Published in News File Winter 2007

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