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Why are Ethiopian Cities Unattractive for Young Entrepreneurs?

Aklog Birara (Dr)  

Ethiopia’s current and future generation is being left out from the enormous and huge benefits that accrue in harnessing and democratizing information and communications technology to innovate, produce, market, and create income and asset generating jobs that also boost the national economy.

Africa, including Ethiopia, the second most populous, is endowed with a youth and potentially productive population, the majority underemployed or unemployed. Exporting youth, especially girls to the Middle East, is hardly the solution.

Central to my hypothesis is the existence or non- existence of a conducive political, social and policy environment in Ethiopia that mitigates barriers of any kind and encourages fulfilment of human potential.  

On June 6, 2023, VICTOR OLUWOLE of Business Insider Africa identified ten towns and cities in Africa that are propelling growth and development led primarily by youth entrepreneurs.  No Ethiopian town or city is identified or included. Ethiopians, especially youth, must ask the question why?

Below are the ten top towns and cities that meet the criteria.

  1. Cape Town, South Africa

“Cape Town, South Africa, ranks as the most popular remote working destination in Africa, with over 9,400 geotagged posts on Instagram.

Digital nomads can enjoy a blend of work and leisure in Africa’s top remote working destinations, with opportunities to explore ancient history, relax on beautiful beaches, and encounter wildlife in their natural habitats.

As the world embraces the flexibility and freedom of remote work, digital nomads are venturing beyond traditional office spaces to explore new horizons. Africa, with its diverse landscapes, vibrant cultures, and emerging digital infrastructure, has become an enticing continent for adventurous professionals seeking remote working opportunities.”

If the state and government suppress human liberties and freedoms, including knowledge, expertise and information that accrue from the digital revolution that is transforming the entire world, then you have no one to blame but the system that denies you access. You have an obligation to express your voice and demand freedom.

I agree with the writer that the beautiful city of Cape Town that I have visited and enjoyed deserves first place in the ranking. “The city boasts a wide array of coworking spaces, internet cafes, and abundant accommodations, ensuring that digital nomads have all the necessary resources for a productive and enjoyable stay.” Freedom of expression and freedom of movement are embedded in this ranking.

  1. Marrakech, Morocco

Morocco is among the fastest developing countries in Africa. “Marrakech, Morocco’s mesmerizing cultural hub, secures the second position on our list. With its enchanting markets, intricate architecture, and vibrant arts scene, Marrakech provides digital nomads with a unique blend of work and cultural exploration. The city offers a range of coworking spaces and is a haven for inspiration, enabling remote workers to find their creative flow amidst the vibrant energy of the Red City.”

This city has always impressed me as a good blend of ancient Moroccan cultures and modernity that operate together in an organic and orderly manner. Ethiopia has several towns and cities—Gondar, Harar, Dire Dawa, Bahir Dar and others—that have enormous potential to do the same.

  1. Nairobi, Kenya

Nairobi has been a pioneer of transformation in information technology, modern banking, and tourism. It is home to Kenya’s diverse population. “Nairobi, the cosmopolitan capital of Kenya, emerges as a dynamic remote working destination, combining urban convenience with breathtaking natural beauty. The city serves as a gateway to Kenya’s world-renowned national parks, offering digital nomads the opportunity to encounter wildlife in their natural habitats. Nairobi boasts a growing number of coworking spaces and a vibrant social scene, creating a conducive environment for both work and cultural immersion.”

  1. Luxor, Egypt

I have been to Luxor with my family twice. It always reminded me of the strong and durable links between Egyptians and the rest of Africa owing in large part to the huge contribution of the Nile River, especially the mighty Abbay (Blue Nile) to Egyptian civilization.

The writer identified Luxor as 4th based on facts on the ground. “I got to Luxor in a roundabout way. I took a 12-hour overnight train from Cairo to Aswan, a town near the southern border of Egypt, and then meandered up the Nile on a multiple-day cruise to Luxor, stopping at various temples along the way. The vistas along the Nile were spectacular. I took a 12-hour overnight train from Cairo to Aswan, a town near the southern border of Egypt, and then meandered up the Nile on a multiple-day cruise to Luxor, stopping at various temples along the way. The vistas along the Nile were spectacular.

Luxor, the captivating city on the banks of the Nile River, transports digital nomads back in time to ancient Egypt. Home to awe-inspiring temples and archaeological wonders, Luxor provides a unique setting for remote work. After productive work sessions, nomads can explore the Valley of the Kings, marvel at the grandeur of Karnak Temple, or indulge in a peaceful felucca ride on the Nile.”

Egypt impresses me as a country that harnesses its rich ancient civilization, cultures, and physical historical assets for the betterment of its huge population.

I can imagine how Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan would benefit hugely if they focused on cooperation rather than conflict by harnessing the waters of the Nile River on a sustainable and equitable manner.

  1. Hurghada, Egypt

“Hurghada, Egypt’s idyllic coastal gem on the Red Sea, offers digital nomads the perfect blend of work and relaxation. With its pristine beaches and abundant opportunities for underwater exploration, Hurghada provides a refreshing escape from the daily grind. Remote workers can dive into the crystal-clear waters to witness vibrant marine life or simply unwind on the sandy shores, finding inspiration in the tranquility of the sea.”

  1. Agadir, Morocco

“Agadir, nestled along Morocco’s picturesque coastline, invites digital nomads to experience serenity and natural beauty. With its laid-back atmosphere and sun-soaked beaches, Agadir provides an ideal environment for remote work. Nomads can take advantage of the city’s coworking spaces, indulge in spa sessions, or embark on adventurous journeys to the nearby Atlas Mountains, making Agadir a peaceful haven for productive remote work.”

  1. Dahab, Egypt

“Dahab, a charming village on Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, offers an appealing option for budget-conscious digital nomads. Known as a “digital nomad haven,” Dahab provides affordable living costs, a welcoming community, and abundant coworking spaces. In between work sessions, nomads can explore world-class diving spots, engage in windsurfing activities, or simply relax in cozy beachfront cafes, immersing themselves in the laid-back charm of this hidden gem.”

  1. Dakar, Senegal

Dakar is among my most favorite cities in Africa. I was taken aback when I heard that, Senegal, one of the most stable and peaceful countries in Africa is today suffering from internal political conflict. Dakar deserves inclusion because it is a hub of creativity, innovation, art, Black African history and civilization, beautiful and world class textiles and so on.

“Dakar, the cultural and economic hub of Senegal, captivates digital nomads with its vibrant energy and artistic atmosphere. The city boasts bustling markets, flavorful local cuisine, and a thriving arts scene. With emerging coworking spaces and a rich cultural heritage, Dakar offers an environment conducive to creativity and productivity, allowing remote workers to explore new horizons while pursuing their professional goals.”

  1. Algiers, Algeria

Most of the world remembers Alegria for its remarkable defiance of French colonialism. The country has since begun to transform its economy for the better.

“Algiers, the capital city of Algeria, presents an undiscovered destination for remote workers seeking a unique experience. With its blend of European and Arabic influences and its stunning Mediterranean coastline, Algiers offers a captivating environment for work and exploration. The city is gradually embracing the digital nomad lifestyle, providing opportunities for coworking, and immersing oneself in the local culture.”

  1. Cairo, Egypt

Cairo, Egypt’s largest city, has always been a center of Egyptian modernization—culture, politics, diplomacy, industry, tourism, museums and the like. It is a vibrant city.

“Cairo, Egypt’s bustling capital, completes our list with its historical treasures and vibrant city life. With its iconic pyramids, bustling streets, and vibrant culture, Cairo offers a dynamic remote working experience. The city provides a growing number of coworking spaces and an opportunity to immerse oneself in ancient history while pursuing professional goals.”

I find it remarkable that four of the ten ranked are in Egypt—Luxor, Hurghada, Dahab and Cairo. Two are in Morocco—Agadir and Marrakech. Black Africa accounts for only three—Cape Town, South Africa, Nairobi, Kenya, and Dakar, Senegal.

In conclusion, Ethiopia does not feature anywhere on this digital planet.

On the other side of the social, political, economic and human security barometer, Ethiopia is blighted by these: two year catastrophic war that is hardly over, ethnic cleansing, massive displacements, mass arrests, tortures of political prisoners, forced disappearances, bribery, state and government corruption, high unemployment and hyperinflation, diversions of aid and budgetary resources from where they are most needed to the financing of drones that kill and to delusional projects such as Sheger city and Chaka that show no credible evidence of sustainable and equitable growth and development.

I challenge the reader to identify any locality in Ethiopia where human freedom and human security exists today. Where human insecurity becomes the norm, the unintended or intended consequence is fear to create, establish a business and to invest. In fact, the opposite happens: take out capital if you have any and or divest if you are bold or do both. This means you do not have confidence in the future because of the system itself.

Lastly, I urge you to imagine what Ethiopian youth can do if the human security and policy environment empowered and encouraged them to challenge policy, innovate, produce, and generate employment. You cannot do that if human rights and human security are degraded as a matter of state and government policy.

You cannot do that if the state and government are accused of stealing humanitarian aid intended to service the poor and the hungry…unassailable accusation by none other than USAID and the World Food Program that just suspended humanitarian aid.


June 11, 2023

1 thought on “Why are Ethiopian Cities Unattractive for Young Entrepreneurs?”

  1. Quote ‘They are unattractive because they are not like the cities in Eritrea and Somalia.’ and unquote ala Af-mishar and Know-It-All.

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