Ethiopian-Israelis innovators compete in their ancestral homeland

"The trip revealed the immense innovative talent that Ethiopian-Israelis have to offer to Israel’s large tech ecosystem," African Got Tech Next wrote.

September 4, 2019 21:12
1 minute read.
Ethiopian-Israelis innovators compete in their ancestral homeland

Ethiopian-Israeli innovators Gize Ajigo and Yehudit Matoko pitch their product Kuve. (photo credit: AFRICAN GOT TECH NEXT)

In August 2019, a group of Ethiopian-Israeli tech innovators and budding entrepreneurs went to Ethiopia for the first time to participate in the annual SolveIT Innovation Competition. Not only was it their first time in the competition, it was their first time in their ancestral country, according to African Got Tech Next (AGTN).

"The trip revealed the immense innovative talent that Ethiopian-Israelis have to offer to Israel’s large tech ecosystem," AGTN wrote.

The five Ethiopian-Israeli delegates are all students at Tech-Career, a nonprofit that aims to integrate Ethiopian-Israeli youth into Israeli society through career development, focusing on hi-tech careers. They were chosen to participate in the competition in Eithiopia after winning a competition that ATGN and Tech-Career hosted in May 2019. The challenge was to "innovate tech solutions for social issues that affect the Ethiopian-Israeli community" and the prize was the opportunity to compete in the SolveIT Innovation Competition in Ethiopia.

The winning projects that were sent to Ethiopia were called Kuve and BunaTrip.

"Kuve, created by Gize Ajigo and Yehudit Matoko, is a fintech app that uses the traditional Ethiopian practice of community-based saving to create a digital platform where groups of people can easily, efficiently and safely offer peer-to-peer loans. BunaTrip, created by Aveva Alemayo, Lior Desta, and Eli Takele, is an international travel app that connects the 5 million-strong global Ethiopian diaspora in order to stay close to their roots while traveling abroad," according to AGTN.

The competition brought together over 100 young Ethiopian tech innovators and was held by the US Embassy in Ethiopia, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and iCog Labs.

“This is a call to action for a shift in mindset in the VC community. By working with Tech-Career, we’ve been able to achieve so much in a short span of time. Much more can be done if VCs redesign their investment criteria and invest in the ideas of the socially marginalized,” said ATGN co-founder Anthony Worku.

Worku went on to say that getting rid of barriers of entry and "universalizing access to capital" is crucial in the search for "Israel’s next brilliant ideas."

While the Ethiopian-Israeli delegation didn't win the SolveIT Innovation Competition, ATGN says that the delegation's participation was still a "groundbreaking move towards recognizing and uplifting innovative and entrepreneurial Ethiopian-Israelis."

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