SEWF Events

SEWF 2019 – Changing the course of history!

by Helen Harvey / November 2019

Written by Nebiyou Worku, Communications and Marketing Manager, British Council Ethiopia

This year brought the Social Enterprise World Forum 2019 to Addis Ababa, from 23 – 25 October, hosted by British Council Ethiopia and Social Enterprise Ethiopia (SEE). The forum showcased the rich, vibrant, diversified and dynamic social enterprise sector in Ethiopia and welcomed 1200+ delegates from around 70 Countries.

This brought much-needed airtime to the social enterprise (SE) sector by catalysing the area’s young and dynamic social enterprise movement – both within Ethiopia and more widely across the continent and the world. Members of the global social enterprise movement came together in Addis to learn from each other and share their experiences.

What a wonderful and vibrant SEWF 2019 it was! The Forum rocked in Addis. The mood was electric and the passion tangible. Ideas sparked everywhere. 1200 plus entrepreneurs mingled. The study tours were superb. Volunteers astounding. The rural study tours were out of this world. Music was delightful. The applause was spontaneous. The food was lauded. The coffee? Don’t get us started!

In all these, as the forum was appropriately themed, tradition and perspectives were the keywords.

The event itself was a first-of-its-kind in many ways. It was the first time it took place in a developing economy. It was the first time 53 per cent of speakers were female. It was the first time almost half of the speakers were African. It was the first time 1000 tickets were sold out 50 days before the event. It was the first time the SE Journalism Award was presented, and the winners awarded a trip to see the UK SE and Media ecosystem. Even if they know it by heart, it was, almost certainly, the first-time millions of Ethiopians heard about the term Social Enterprise. It’s probably the first time many of the participants had ever been to Ethiopia….and the list goes on.

So, what else do we need?

Entrepreneurs act on their instincts, knowledge, partnerships, wisdom and more. They turn these into innovations and change the world. So, what happens now SEWF 2019 is over?

We change the world, of course.

So, we, the entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs in Africa and the world want to effect change that touch the lives of the beautiful people around us. As it was echoed throughout the forum, there is no better time than now, and the world has never needed social enterprise as much as it does now.

We need to see social enterprise policy in Ethiopia, Africa and around the globe. We need to have social enterprises blooming throughout the world. We need this new ‘Capitalism’ boom. We want more corporates supporting the cause and becoming social enterprises themselves. We need to see youth employed in the social enterprise sector and become constructive. We need countless start-ups. We need numerous impact-investors growing. And we need them now.

As Peter Holbrook, Chief Executive of Social Enterprise UK succinctly expressed almost two years ago in the SEWF 2019 host city, Addis Ababa:

“More oxygen is produced by the millions of microscopic phytoplankton which are found in the oceans, than the trees. Small acts when multiplied millions can transform the world. In the same way, Social Enterprises can bring about a great change in the world.”

Together we can do it all.

Youth week (20-25 October 2019)

The Social Enterprise World Forum 2019 (SEWF2019) programme was officially opened by Peter Brown, Country Director of British Council Ethiopia, during a press conference on 18 October.

Also read:  Explore Amsterdam's social enterprise scene with these eight routes 

Photo © Synergy Habesha

The programme of activities commenced with the superbly interactive opening ceremony of the Youth week, on Sunday 20th October. The Youth week allowed 100 young individuals from around the globe to attend the week-long programme from 20 – 25 October. The objectives were to increase youth participation in social enterprise, amplify youth voice (unemployment, education, political participation), initiate youth networks, create an opportunity for investment and call for action.

The youth ambassadors selected from Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Australia were involved in discussions with other participants throughout the week, forwarding their views and suggestions on how their participation could be enhanced.
Find out more about our Youth Ambassadors here – and check out photos from the Youth week opening ceremony here –

Education and Academic Symposium (21 October 2019)

The 2019 education and academic symposium took place on 21 October, created a space for a cross-section of experts inclusive of academics and expert practitioners working in the field of social enterprise and education. These practitioners and academics learned, shared innovative experiences and discussed how to collaborate in the future to improve the role social enterprises are playing economically, socially and environmentally. This consisted of two strands:

  • Education for social enterprise and employability
  • Collaborations and Partnerships

Urban Study Tours (21-22 October 2019)

The urban study tours allowed two groups to visit different social enterprise shops and eateries in Addis Ababa, a city which buzzes with different cultures and ongoing development, including:

  • Sabahar: a certified member of Fair World Trade Organisation, this SE is committed to providing fair and reliable employment to traditional artisans. Sabahar is known for its uniquely designed and handmade silk, wool and linen textiles. For further info, visit –
  • Selam David Roshli Technical and Vocational College (SDR-TVC): Founded in 1989, Selam is famous for its family model village childcare and youth support program, Community Support Services, Health and clinic service, Formal education school and Technical and vocational education training. For further info –

Photo © Lidya Yohannes

Policy Forum (22 October 2019)

The Policy Forum co-hosted by SEWF CIC and the British Council in partnership with the Ethiopian Government and Social Enterprise Ethiopia (SEE) was a closed forum, by invitation only. This involved rich discussions aimed at broadening the understanding of, and encouraging collaboration on, social enterprise policy developments and sharing insights. The forum was opened with a live performance of Ethiopian traditional music.

Exhibition (23-25 October 2019)

The exhibition took place throughout the main forum and showcased products and services from social enterprises across the world. It was also a place where delegates and exhibitors built valuable networks.

Photo © Synergy Habesha

African Themed Welcome Reception (23 October 2019)

Following the opening ceremony of the SEWF, a very colourful and vibrant African themed evening took place at British Council Ethiopia HQ where delegates mingled, ate, drank and danced.

Photo © Digital Storytellers

Ethiopian Cultural Evening (23 October 2019)

Ethiopia is Africa’s oldest independent country. It is also Africa’s second-most populous nation. It’s capital Addis Ababa is often called ‘The Capital of Africa’ because it hosts the Africa Union as well as the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. Ethiopia’s population is highly diverse, containing over 80 different ethnic groups; 83 different languages with up to 200 different dialects spoken. It has historic links with three of the world’s oldest religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

The cultural evening provided delegates with an experience of the diversified Ethiopian traditions, and a variety of Ethiopian dishes – ranging from lamb (beg) or chicken (doro) wot (stew) in the surroundings of Addis Ababa Museum.

Also read:  SEWF23 Collective Action. Sustainable Change: How social enterprises put People and Planet First

Photo © Digital Storytellers

SEWF 2019 Main Forum (23-25 October 2019)

“This is the right time for Ethiopia to host the Social Enterprise World Forum.” These were the words of Dr Tilaye Gete, Ethiopia’s Minister for Education, as he greeted 1,200 delegates from 70 countries and territories at the opening of the 12th Social Enterprise World Forum on Wednesday 23 October 2019. Read the full article here –

The main forum was an interactive event with multiple, diverse sessions including:

  • Social enterprises leading the way in tackling inequality,
  • Tech for Good – realising the potential for social change,
  • Innovation in youth engagement,
  • Social Enterprises addressing the challenges of migration,
  • Connecting rural women with global markets,
  • Creative and Cultural Enterprise; and
  • many more.


200 speakers from more than 50 countries led these sessions and shared their experience and expertise with 1000 plus participants.

Testimonials and quotes

“It’s a big deal to have the forum here [Ethiopia] and your presence here will leave a legacy.” Bruktawit Tigabu, founder of Whiz Kids Workshop.

“This Social Enterprise World Forum 2019 here in Addis Ababa has opened our eyes to all the possibilities of scaling up our service provision to blind and visually impaired people.” Founder of Visual Eyes Afrika-International, Molemisi Kono

“We envision a world where every woman is valued and given an opportunity.” The Co-Founder of Temsalet Kitchen

“We fight hunger differently.” Mike Curtin from DC Kitchen quoting Mother Theresa

“What worries me most in the fashion industry is the textile wastage, here at phinix, we collected over 4000 Kilos of textile waste, work with local artisans to produce beautiful shoes and bags for the market.” Pamela from Phinix, Malesia

“Any social enterprise should provide the best product or service in the market.” Tom Allen from Impact Boom

“I didn’t know that there are so many SEs in Ethiopia. Moreover, I got to meet lots of young people and learn.” Nancy Chebet, Participant from Kenya

Rural Study Tour (26 – 28th October)

Lalibela is known for its magnificent rock-hewn churches and Arba Minch for its raw natural beauty. But, the main focus, were the social enterprises there.

In Lalibela, the tour took the participants to BEZA Association and Ben Abeba. BEZA association was established to provide community care for people living with HIV/AIDS. For further info, visit Ben Abeba is the creation of Scottish lady, Susan Aitchison and Ethiopian man, Habtamu Baye. The restaurant, set in a jaw-dropping location, currently employs 50 staff and provides a training platform for locals who wish to get into the restaurant trade. The site continues to evolve with 4 luxury apartments due to open there next month. The restaurant is eco- friendly, and 50,000 trees have been planted in the surrounding area, to cultivate natural wildlife. For those in the UK, Ben Abeba and Susan’s tale will feature in Ben Fogle’s ‘New Lives in the Wild’ on Tuesday 5th November at 9pm.

Photo © Jo Seagrave

The Arba Minch trip saw three SEs and how they operate. These were Jano Handicraft Association, Paradise Lodge and The Ethiopian Kale Heywet Church Development Commission (EKHCDC.) EKHCDC is legally registered and licensed as an NGO and targets the immediate and long term needs of its beneficiaries with a particular emphasis on children, women, and youth. One focus area of EKHCDC is institutional capacity building programs that have so far benefitted over one million people.

Also read:  Just released: SEWF23 Event Report

SEWF 2019: “We’re not the only saviours of the planet”

As the climate emergency has become more prevalent in the last year, one of the stand out sessions was ‘The role of social enterprise in saving the planet’.

In a strongly worded address on the second day of the Social Enterprise World Forum 2019 in Addis Ababa, Harish Hande, CEO of India’s sustainable energy Selco Foundation, drew attention to some of the less attractive characteristics of some social entrepreneurs.

“Social entrepreneurs shouldn’t assume that they are the only ones who can fix the world and instead collaborate with each other as well as governments, NGOs and businesses.” wrote Julie Pybus of Pioneers Post in an article following the session.

Photo © Pioneers Post

Social enterprise Journalism Award winners Announced

Eden Berhane, ‘Semonun Addis’, EBS TV was announced as the winner of the first-ever Social Enterprise Journalist of the Year award during the SEWF press conference on 18 October at the British Council Ethiopia HQ.

Eden is the Executive Producer of ‘Semonun Addis’ show on EBS TV channel. She won this award for the exemplary programmes she produced on the show with regards to why and how Addis should recycle plastic bottles and the amazing story of Tesfa Creative Craftworkers.

Photo © Synergy Habesha

Her plan for the future
Eden notes that there are lots of problems being faced by Social Enterprises. She aims to start a social entrepreneurship award television show which will help to create and encourage the social enterprise sector in the country.

You can access her entries here –

Why and how Addis should recycle plastic bottles?
Part 1:
Part 2:

The amazing story of Tesfa creative craft workers
Part 1
Part 2

Eden was given the honour of distributing certificates and awards to 4 journalist colleagues who won second, third, and special commendation awards after she spoke at SEWF 2019.

This award follows a session organised by British Council Ethiopia earlier in the year to bring journalists and social enterprise actors together to establish a better understanding of each other and how they can collaborate to publish more social enterprise stories.

SEWF 2020 flies west from Addis Ababa to Nova Scotia

Photo © Synergy Habesha

At the end of SEWF 2019, it was announced the Social Enterprise World Forum 2020 will take place in Halifax, Nova Scotia from 23 – 25 September. Lauren Sears, Managing Director of Common Good Solutions (the 2020 host organisation) told delegates:

“Halifax is the epicentre for social enterprise in Canada. Common Good Solutions will be welcoming the world to the Social Enterprise World Forum.”

Read the full article in Pioneers Post –

Thanks to our Partners

We would like to thank our Strategic Partner, (Social Enterprise Ethiopia,) the Platinum Partners (Johnson & Johnson, Reach for Change and SAP,) our Gold Partner (Vodacom,) Bronze (Diageo, ESELA, Europian Union, The Scottish Government and Turkish Airlines,), Media Partners (Pioneers Post, Impact Boom, The Rooftop) and Documentation partners (Digital Storytellers and Synergy Habesha) for making this event possible.

SEWF 2019 media coverage

Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporate:
FANA Broadcasting Corporate:
Addis Standard
The Reporter
Tadias Addis
Thomson Reuters
Business Insider

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Helen Harvey is SEWF's Event Director