Promoting Participatory Economic Dialogue and Reform

The Opportunity

2018 ushered in an unprecedented wave of democratic and economic reforms in Ethiopia. Following widespread unrest and a longstanding national state of emergency, notable changes in Ethiopia’s political and economic spheres were a welcome sight. Since then, questions have arisen around the feasibility and transparency of broad reform measures. The persistence of the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened existing economic hurdles, placing increasing pressure on already marginalized populations in Ethiopia, especially women and youth. As a leading voice for economic and democratic reform, Ethiopia’s business community must play a role in shaping an equitable, peaceful, and inclusive future for the country. In Ethiopia’s rapidly changing social, political, and economic landscape, it is vital that the voices of business and civil society are included in the country’s reform and recovery processes.

CIPE Approach

CIPE works with Business Membership Organizations (BMOs) across Ethiopia to promote market-oriented economic reform and participatory dialogue on economic policy. To date, CIPE has supported more than 100 BMOs and civil society organizations across all of Ethiopia, from Addis Ababa and the highland states to emerging regions like Afar, Somali, Benishangul-Gumuz, and Gambela.

In August of 2018, CIPE signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to open a regional office in Addis Ababa, which is now home to the CIPE Civic Engagement Hub (CEH). The CEH is an incubator, co-working space, and resource center for new and growing Ethiopian civil society organizations and civic-minded entrepreneurs.

In Ethiopia, CIPE’s strategy is to leverage its networks in the private sector and civil society to encourage the current push for democratic and economic reform. To this end, CIPE’s work in Ethiopia focuses on economic dialogue, inclusive growth, and supporting Ethiopia’s change leaders.


Economic Dialogue

CIPE’s work around the world has shown the crucial need for business participation in economic dialogue. In the context of Ethiopia’s current democratic opening, CIPE sees an opportunity to leverage its longstanding experience engaging with Ethiopian business associations to promote economic dialogue in the context of the ongoing reforms.

  • As part of CIPE’s work to build the capacity of Ethiopia’s business associations and support public-private dialogue, CIPE has trained chambers of commerce and business associations from all regional states on issues of governance, sustainability, and dialogue with government. CIPE pioneered the concept of public-private dialogue in Ethiopia, producing concrete policy changes in areas such as taxation, price control, and land administration and management. As a result, coalitions of local, regional, and national business associations and civil society organizations are regularly engaged in evidence-based policy reform through public-private dialogue processes in the Amhara, Afar, Oromia, Somali, SNNPR, and Tigray
  • CIPE is also working to support new channels for debate and public engagement around Ethiopia’s future economic direction. These channels, more important than ever in the current context of the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing ethnic tensions, and the run-up to the 2021 elections, include pre-election fora, high-level dialogue events, policy roundtables, and support of economic reporting by local journalists. CIPE’s newest program in Ethiopia seeks to promote inclusive issue-based dialogue by supporting the private sector’s role in regional business integration with the goal of reducing violence and promoting peacebuilding efforts.

Inclusive Growth

In the current context of popular protest and political reform, Ethiopia’s continued development and stability depends on making economic growth more inclusive, which includes a heightened focus on business-to-business (B2B) linkages, anti-corruption measures, and an overall improvement of the environment for doing business.

  • Since 2016, CIPE has worked on creating opportunities for public-private collaboration to promote entrepreneurship at the city level in Ethiopia’s Industrial Parks. CIPE has recently developed a guidebook on industrial linkage development based on the findings of its pilot program in Hawassa to support increased connectivity between local economies and international industrial parks.
  • As part of a regional CIPE program on anti-corruption compliance – currently implemented in 13 countries – CIPE works with the Addis Ababa Chamber of Commerce and Sectoral Association (AACCSA) with the aims of supporting Ethiopian firms to improve their management and governance systems to reduce opportunities for corruption by combining capacity development programs with initiatives tailored to incentivize businesses to operate with integrity. Through this program, which is frequently tailored to support SMEs, CIPE offers compliance training, consulting, and auditing solutions to local companies to facilitate their integration into global value chains. CIPE also supports efforts to build consensus across stakeholder groups including the private sector, civil society, and government to strengthen anti-corruption reform efforts and address critical gaps and risk trends in Ethiopia.
  • CIPE works to empower marginal economic actors – specifically, women entrepreneurs, self-employed youth, and the informal business community – through policy reform. CIPE is in the process of studying the region-specific challenges and potential of the informal economy, supporting coalition-based policy reform processes, and encouraging B2B linkages and employment opportunities.

Supporting Ethiopia’s Change Leaders

CIPE recognizes that the future of civic leadership in Ethiopia may not look like the past. Through its Young Entrepreneurs Forum, Civic Engagement Hub, Leadership Academy for Development training, and Digital Economy pilot program, CIPE is working to support the groups and individuals that are pioneering new approaches to community, regional, and national change efforts.

  • In the second half of 2020, CIPE supported the launch of the Young Entrepreneurs Forum (YEF), a platform where entrepreneurs can ask questions of government leaders and hear from policymakers about upcoming policies, particularly those related to entrepreneurship and the development of the digital economy.
  • Housed within CIPE’s East Africa Regional Office, the CIPE Civic Engagement Hub (CEH) operates with the goal of fostering a vibrant, cross-sectoral community for the next generation of civic leaders in Ethiopia. The CEH is focused on providing tools and resources to develop sustainable organizations, offering community-building opportunities, and supporting grassroots advocacy efforts.
  • In 2019, CIPE partnered with Stanford University’s Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law to train and support a group of Ethiopia’s government, business, and civil society change leaders to capitalize on the current moment of political and economic opening through the Ethiopian Leadership Academy for Development (LAD). For five days, a group of Ethiopian reformers learned a “hands-on” approach that has enabled them to analyze complex issues, make difficult decisions, and communicate them effectively.
  • CIPE’s regional Digital Economy pilot program in Africa centers around ensuring the inclusion of diverse private sector voices – particularly SMEs – from Ethiopia and Kenya in national and regional digital economy policy through their involvement in multi-sector working groups, the production of policy briefs and sector-specific studies, and inclusive dialogue processes.