Encouraging entrepreneurs

ILO launches business plan competition to boost entrepreneurship in Ethiopia’s Somali region

The competition offers financial support and specialized training to promising business ideas, aiming to stimulate entrepreneurship and sustainable economic growth among refugees and their hosts in the Somali region.

Article | 07 August 2023

Jigjiga, ETHIOPIA (ILO News) – The International Labour Organization (ILO) PROSPECTS and HASI Consulting have taken a significant step towards fostering entrepreneurship and economic growth in the Fafan zone of the Somali region. With the launch of a business plan competition (BPC) on 29-30 June 2023, the initiative aims to support young people, women and men from refugee and host communities who harbour ambitions of expanding their existing businesses or starting new ventures.

The competition will start with about 200 young people participating in training to help each of them to devise their own unique business plans. Following a rigorous evaluation, participants with the most outstanding proposals will be selected to present their ideas to a review committee of experts. The top 60 entrepreneurs will receive financial support to turn their plans into reality, while the remaining participants will be connected to local financial service providers to access funding opportunities.

“Ethiopia’s Somali region is prone to droughts and is one of the least developed regions in the country. Moreover, the region hosts a high number of forcibly displaced people from neighbouring countries,” explained Jean-Yves Barba, Chief Technical Advisor, ILO PROPSECTS Ethiopia. He added: “The business plan competition approach is one that the ILO has used in different contexts and that has shown positive results in terms of enterprise development and the stimulation of job creation. By giving small businesses the opportunity to grow and contribute further to community and local economic development, they create a win-win situation for both entrepreneurs and the communities within which they operate.”

Eirmyas Kaase, Senior Programme Officer, ILO PROSPECTS Ethiopia, said: “The competition aims to benefit entrepreneurs who not only have business ideas, but also a strong interest to expand their existing business or start a new one. We will be encouraging young people and especially women to participate in this competition. The overarching objective is to create a thriving and sustainable local economy that benefits both refugees and the host communities.”
Eirmyas Kaasem, ILO's Official explaining participants the objectives of business plan competition ©ILO

During the two-day launch and co-designing workshop, representatives from Somali Regional State Bureaus (Skills and Job Creation Bureau, Youth and Sports Bureau, Bureau of Finance, Bureau of Women and Child Affairs, Disaster Risk Management Bureau, etc), NGOs (UNHCR, UNICEF, LWF, VSF Suisse, Mercy Corps etc) and an implementing partner (National Business Development Services Providers Association) gathered to provide valuable inputs to the design of the BPC.

Participants discussed award categories, methods to encourage the involvement of women and people with disability, the type of rewards proposed for the winners, the composition of judging committees, the stakeholders to be engaged, how to ensure the shared involvement of refugees and host communities as well as for men and women and the communication channels to be used to invite potential candidates.

The competition will involve the National Business Development Services Providers Association, established last year with ILO PROSPECTS support. This is an association formed by 20 business development services trainers trained and certified by the ILO. They will conduct a thorough assessment of the participants' profiles and will also tailor training modules to address their specific needs. The training itself will include such ILO capacity-building tools as financial education, Start and Improve Your Business (SIYB) and Women's Entrepreneurship Development.

Muktar Omer, Deputy Managing Director at HASI Consulting, expressed his commitment to providing extended support to the selected entrepreneurs. “The collaboration between HASI Consulting and the Business Development Services Providers Association will ensure that the award recipients have access to the necessary resources, guidance and mentorship to foster the long-term success of their respective ventures.”

“The competition aspires to be a catalyst for empowering existing and aspiring entrepreneurs from both refugee and host communities. With its focus on fostering innovation and sustainability, the initiative promises to bring about positive change in the lives of many in the Somali region and beyond,” said Jean-Yves.
Participants at the business plan competition launch workshop ©ILO


Partnership for Improving Prospects for Forcibly Displaced Persons and Host Communities (PROSPECTS) is a global partnership spearheaded by the Government of the Netherlands that aims to improve the access of host communities and forcibly displaced people to education, social protection, and decent work.

In this partnership, the ILO plays a key role in promoting decent work and focuses on strengthening local economic development and improving employability by equipping refugees and host communities with better and relevant skills to enter local labour markets and access enterprise development opportunities.