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Ethiopia: Then & Now

By Laura Davis | Tue Dec 01 2015
Matt and I often reflect on how we would like to better document and share the changes we have seen in Ethiopia since we first arrived to open our office in February 2012. The changes are almost beyond comprehension, and we often wish we had installed time-lapse cameras at various points around Addis Ababa to capture the exceptional growth this city has experienced over the past few years.
I was part of the “advance team” in January 2012, coming several days before Matt and a group of brave investors arrived in Addis Ababa. Now, we have six investments and will soon be the largest private equity (PE) investor in Ethiopia by volume of deals. Since then, RENEW has come a long way, as has the country in which we reside. We are thrilled to participate in and observe the incredible story that is Ethiopia’s growth.
Infrastructure – Trains, planes and automobiles

Matt knows a time before there was even a ring road in Addis Ababa. Now, there is not only a ring road (a highway of sorts), there are also stoplights throughout the city, a six-lane highway connecting Addis Ababa to Adama (the busiest corridor for transporting goods), a light rail system to transport city residents, and a railway will soon be commissioned to take containers from Addis Ababa to the Port of Djibouti. We still become concerned when we see people walking their livestock on the ring road, but then again, change takes time.
Private Equity – They said it was impossible

When we first came to the country, RENEW was the second foreign PE group to open an office in Ethiopia. Now, there are several additional firms working alongside RENEW. We still receive the occasional question from investors about whether private equity is really possible here, but in general, viewpoints have evolved and investments are being made. As more investors come, desk officers at related government organizations are starting to understand the needs and terminology of the private equity community. We do our part to educate businesses, banks and other stakeholders in the investment community about private equity through seminars and one-on-one conversations. Shark Tank Addis anyone?
Real Estate Development – Scaffolding, scaffolding and more scaffolding

If you leave Addis Ababa for even a couple of days, you’ll likely come back to a new building (or ten) going up. Every day, it seems like a new hotel or apartment building or corporate office is constructed and opens its doors. I would never pretend to be an expert on the real estate industry in Ethiopia, where the government owns the land and leases it for residential and commercial use. But, by all accounts, there has been incredible growth since we arrived four years ago, and it does not seem like it will be slowing down anytime soon. One of our investors recently commented that she thinks we should start a scaffolding business. Not a bad idea!
Quality of Life: On the up and up

The quality of life becomes better each month we are here. Last month, we spent some time in the rural coffee region of southern Ethiopia, and I was astonished to find that there was an operational 3G cellphone network throughout the area. Even a year ago, this wouldn’t have been the case. Ericsson has done an incredible job of implementing said networks in locations where they’ve been asked to do so by the government of Ethiopia. Other areas we see progress in include the addition of upscale restaurants and infrastructure present in cosmopolitan cities around the world.
As 2015 comes to a close, I'm sure that we will see even more exciting development and change in the coming year - Matt and I can't wait to see what's in store.
Renew Capital is an Africa-focused impact investment firm that backs innovative companies with high-growth potential. Renew Capital manages investments made on behalf of the Renew Capital Angels, a global network of angel investors, foundations and family offices who seek financial returns and sustainable social impact. For the latest on investing in Africa, subscribe and follow us at our social links below.

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