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NINJA Program Creating Champions for the Startup Ecosystem of Ethiopia 

By Samrawit Geremew | Tue Mar 14 2023
Launching the NINJA Acceleration Program
The first industrial revolution used water and steam power to mechanize production. The second used electric power to create mass production. The third used electronics and information technology to automate production. Now, a fourth “digital” industrial revolution is underway, building on the technological advancements of the last century and characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres. 
Ethiopia is no exception - as stated in the country’s most recent Ten Year Development Plan (2020/21-2029/30) published by FDRE Planning and Development Commission, “technological capability and digital economy” is one of the ten key strategic pillars that are set to help attain the development goals of Ethiopia. In support of this work, the Government of Ethiopia (GoE) has committed to “build the human resources capacity to increase the potential workforce in the innovation, technology and research subsectors”. 
In its current state, Ethiopia has to play catch up with the rest of the world when it comes to fully integrating the fruits of the third industrial revolution into its key economic sectors. Materializing this and fully entering into the fourth industrial revolution can likely be attained by promoting the nascent startup ecosystem that is just developing in the country’s economy, something that the GoE recognizes and supports.   
The Ethiopian Ministry of Innovation and Technology (MinT) is giving due attention to entrepreneurship and its immense potential to contribute to the growth of the economy. Working alongside the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), MinT and JICA are seeking to encourage startup innovation that has the potential to solve persisting sectoral problems through the use of emerging technologies as part of the Next Innovation With Japan (NINJA) Acceleration Program. 
After the launch of the 2022 NINJA Acceleration Program in Ethiopia, the program accepted nearly 100 applications from startups all over Ethiopia in December to compete in a multi-stage and multi-month acceleration competition. The program’s three-phased selection process resulted in six trailblazing, technology startup finalists that have the potential to revitalize the country’s economy through driving sectors such as agriculture, tourism, logistics and digitalization and ICT.
Following the selection of the six startups that fit the objectives of NINJA Acceleration Program, JICA and MinT, in collaboration with the implementing partner Renew Capital, will be hosting a Kickoff Conference on April 7, 2023 that will serve as the formal launch of a curated, four-month intensive training program for the six startups. The NINJA Acceleration program will lay the foundation for the selected startups to appropriately scale and build a world-class business through practical training, coaching and mentorship. It will also provide the six startups with a disbursement amount of ETB 500K and a trip to Japan for further training and networking. 
The Kickoff Conference will host a panel discussion by key stakeholders and the final business pitches of the winning six startups. This Kickoff Conference will also serve as a platform from which the finalists and their products are widely publicized to local and international stakeholders, such as enabling bodies, entrepreneurial support organizations, capital providers and potential customers. 
1)Schuab, Klaus. World Economic Forum. 2016. Link
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