Can Ethiopia Forge A Path As A Rising Tech Power In Africa?

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Written by Peter Pedroncelli

Ethiopia has a long way to go to replicate the tech prowess of neighbors Kenya, but signs on the ground seem to indicate that a sleeping giant is beginning to rise.

New leadership from Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, a former minister of science and technology, is beginning to produce results. A higher education policy aimed at increasing employable skills in science and technology is bearing fruit, according to AfricaBusinessmag.

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Ethiopia is now seeing a large number of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) students being prepared to enter the job market.

Around 762,000 STEM students begin studying at higher education institutions in the country on an annual basis, following the government’s new policy, according to a 2017 World Bank report.

Part of the government’s policy was to increase the amount of higher education facilities, and these have multiplied fivefold since 2005.

tech power
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping before their bilateral meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. AP Photo – Andy Wong

The number of public institutions increased from eight to 36 in that period, according to the report.

The government also implemented a 70:30 higher education policy – training 70 percent of students in technology and science versus the remaining 30 percent who studied subjects in social science and humanities.

There are now more graduates than tech jobs that can sustain them, however, so government-sponsored incubators have been created to nurture Ethiopian startups and entrepreneurs, according to the BBC.

Abiy loosening state grip

Abiy took office in 2018, and has since part privatized a number of state-owned companies including telecoms provider Ethio Telecom in an effort to improve internet access, according to CNN.

With the privatization process ongoing, pan-African telecom operators have shown interest in entering Ethiopia for the opportunity to serve its 105 million population.

MTN, Orange and Vodacom are some of the operators that wish to be involved in the privatization of Ethio, which will be split into two businesses, according to ITNewsAfrica.