This is a guest blog by Isabel Marquette whose family is a member and investor in the Impact Angel Network.
I lived in Ethiopia with my family for six months when I was 14 years old, back in 2014. This was during the early years of RENEW and my first time experiencing a culture outside of the United States. I stayed for six months and left with many new friends and a longing to return.
Five years later, I returned to Addis this summer to spend time reconnecting with friends and to visit some of the companies in which my family has invested. I spent time all over the city and from my perspective, a lot has changed, but some things are the same five years later. The Edna Mall appears mostly unchanged, businesses such as the bakery we frequented have moved locations, marking small changes and incremental growth. In the community where my friends live, their simple homes are much the same and the roads remain unpaved years later. The train is one of the biggest additions to the city. Infrastructure and various buildings are improving. The things I loved most about Ethiopia, thankfully remained unchanged. Once again, I experienced the friendly people, welcoming communities, and delicious food.
Not only did I spend time with old friends, but I also made new friends while I was there. I met up with friends who I knew from my first trip, from the neighborhood in which my family stayed previously. Most of them grew up together and continue to live simply, spending most of their free time hanging out or playing soccer on the street. I also met a new cohort of young people who are my age and being educated globally, but return to Addis for the summer. The common theme among all of them is a general optimism about the direction of the country. They would say the economic growth and opportunities, as well as the new political leadership is slowly opening doors for more people. Many young people still struggle with unemployment or underemployment, so it’ll be great to see how this new leadership changes the economy in the years to come.
The slow and incremental changes I observed on a macro level is also true about the businesses that my parents have invested in. You can see first-hand that things change and grow but it takes time, and sometimes takes longer than expected. While in Addis, I had the chance to visit eight different businesses, four of which are companies my parents are invested in. My favorite part about visiting the different companies was meeting the entrepreneurs and hearing their stories. One of the highlights was meeting engineers who had finished their studies and were working at dVentus, the Impact Angel Network’s first investment. It was inspiring because I am currently pursuing an engineering degree as well. I witnessed them going through some of the same processes that I have studied such as preforming tests on meters. It was great to see some of the principles and processes I’m learning in a real-world setting. Another business that stood out to me was Krotaj. During the visit, we had the chance to walk through each step of the manufacturing process. I could see the raw materials and even had the chance to taste some of the finished tahini – delicious!
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.