Tigabu Mekonnen is one of the TVET students to take part in our pilot Green Entrepreneurship Bootcamp and Green Innovation Lab. As a mechanical engineering graduate in Addis Ababa Science and Technology University, Tigabu has always searched for ways to seek his own path. Due to an Ethiopian Higher education policy, mandating that 70% of students should join the natural science field, many students have obtained degrees within engineering in the last years. As a result, finding a job in that field became impossible. Seeking employment and worrying about his future, as his patients couldn’t support him after graduation, led Tigabu to a number of sleepless nights. Thus, Tigabu planned to start his own business. But because of the limited knowledge he had about the business sector, he couldn’t move forward with his idea.
Knowing the struggle he was facing, one of his friends advised him to apply for the Green Entrepreneurship Bootcamp, organized by Reach for Change and the IKEA Foundation. During the training, he was very attentive and showed the utmost interest in learning the potential areas of how to run a business. His family members were farmers, but the land they owned was so small that they couldn’t harvest enough food even for themselves, let alone to sell. Tigabu came up with an innovative vertical farm idea as a solution to increase food production, and gained confidence and motivation to pursue the idea during the Bootcamp Training. He then joined the Green Innovation Lab program to further develop his project.
After the training, he expanded his business focus into two - producing both the vertical farming equipment, and food from vertical farms. He is now in the early testing stage of his business, and plans on moving toward production once ready.
I spent 5 years studying mechanical engineering but I didn't have any knowledge on business models. It's not an exaggeration to say the Green Entrepreneurship Bootcamp and the Innovation Lab trainings are a game changer for me.
Green Entrepreneurship Bootcamp Program
The Green Entrepreneurship Bootcamp was designed to nurture green entrepreneurial mindsets and generate green enterprise ideas among tertiary level students. A total of 359 students (246 male and 113 female) participated fully in the training, which aimed to ignite their interest in starting a green business and develop specific business ideas.
Mindset Shift: The bootcamp training resulted in a significant increase in entrepreneurial mindsets among participants. A comparison of pre- and post-training scores showed a noteworthy shift from high to very high scores in entrepreneurial attitude, self-efficacy, and entrepreneurial mindset. This indicates a positive impact on participants' mindset and fills the gap in the existing entrepreneurship education curriculum.
Level of Understanding: The participants' perception of their understanding of the 11 topics covered during the Bootcamp training was measured through a survey. The results demonstrated that the training provided valuable and practical knowledge on entrepreneurship, enhancing their understanding of the subject matter.
Idea Generation: As part of the training process, all participants were encouraged to generate and work on their own green business ideas. As a result, 53 students developed innovative green business ideas and applied to participate in the Green Innovation Lab, seeking support to transform their ideas into minimum viable products. Remarkably, 81% of the Bootcamp applicants were shortlisted, and 67% were selected for the innovation lab program, highlighting the quality of idea generation influenced by the Bootcamp training.
Effects of Demographic Factors and Methodologies
To understand the impact of demographic factors and methodologies, several A/B tests were conducted, leading to the following insights:
Academic Level: The academic level (university or TVET student) did not affect the mindset shift or level of understanding of the training topics.
Training Delivery Methodology: Professional trainers had a higher impact on entrepreneurial attitudes and mindsets, while faculty staff were more effective in facilitating a thorough understanding of the training topics. This suggests the potential benefits of using mixed methods.
In-person vs. Pre-recorded Entrepreneur Guest Sessions: Both in-person visits and pre-recorded video sessions inspired around 74% of participants. Many suggested combining both formats for future training, as in-person sessions allow for interaction and questioning, while pre-recorded videos offer flexibility and accessibility.
Learnings and Adaptations
Based on assessments, observations, and close follow-ups, the project team identified specific learnings and implemented adjustments:
Female Participation: To encourage greater participation among female students, the project featured women role models and implemented affirmative actions tailored to their needs.
Challenges Faced by Students from Other Regions: Students from outside the region faced challenges such as accommodation after graduation. In collaboration with one of the universities, the project provided a place for these students to stay and complete their programs, overcoming the obstacles they encountered.
The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp and Green Innovation Lab have proven to be effective in catalyzing green business ideas and nurturing entrepreneurial mindsets among Ethiopian youth. Through the pilot project, we have gained valuable insights and adapted strategies to maximize the program's impact. By fostering an environment that supports and empowers aspiring young entrepreneurs, Ethiopia is on its way to creating a vibrant ecosystem of sustainable and impactful green enterprises.
Learn more about the project and our partnership with IKEA Foundation here.