Export and Business Development for Ethiopian Agribusinesses

The backbone of the Ethiopian economy is agriculture, which provides employment for approximately 68% of the working population and represents 30% of GDP. With over 40% of the Ethiopian population being under the age of 15, the Ethiopian government must facilitate the creation of millions of jobs a year to ensure the reduction in the labour surplus. Consequently, and for the past two decades, the Ethiopian government’s strategy for economic development is the structural transformation of the economy from low- to high-productivity agriculture, value-addition and industrialisation.

In conjunction with the GIZ project, ‘’Cluster Support in the Agriculture and Food Industry in Ethiopia’’, ProFound undertook the assignment of improving the employment-effective growth of Ethiopian agri-food businesses. In the end, ProFound was able to create concrete commercial opportunities, leading to sustainable job creation.  

Sorting of coffee beans at a coffee co-operative in Mizan Tepi


ProFound Owner Bert-Jan discussing multi-cropping opportunities with farmers and entrepreneurs in Mizan Tepi

Export Marketing Planning

During the project, ProFound worked with 22 agribusinesses, who exhibited high potential for production and export of products like coffee, beans and pulses, and honey. Importantly, many of the SMEs were able to offer exciting value-addition products, such as unique speciality coffee sourced directly from small-scale coffee farmers in Ethiopia’s rich coffee forest regions.

A critical aspect of ProFound’s intervention was stimulating exchange and co-operation between the SMEs, which was considered critical for business development. This was achieved through various mechanisms, such as organising group workshops and trainings digitally, and in Ethiopia. During these workshops, the SMEs actively participated and exchanged knowledge on the challenges they were facing, including food safety and compliance issues and market entry bottlenecks. A WhatsApp group was also created to keep the SMEs actively engaged in the project. Moreover, group excursions to bio-diverse regions such as Mizan Tepi were hugely successful, and yielded discussions on sustainable sourcing, organic production, and multi-cropping opportunities.

These activities formed the backbone of the companies’ Export Marketing Plan (EMP), which you can learn more about here. Online trainings enabled the SMEs to update their EMPs on a continuous basis as companies enriched their knowledge on intercultural business communication, supply chain management, and product development and marketing strategies.

Business Development and Export Promotion Roadmap

Matchmaking in Europe

Ultimately, these combined activities prepared the SMEs for market entry and matchmaking events in Europe. World of Coffee, in Milan, was attended by 9 of the Ethiopian SMEs. During the event, participants were able to meet key stakeholders in the coffee industry to discuss the latest coffee market developments. This was combined with a joint visit to Lavazza, where an expert of Lavazza discussed quality requirements.

  One of the participants expressed the value of the visit, saying:

‘’After Covid, this is the first time we could come face to face with big buyers in the industry. Even more, their appetite for discussing details gave me the information I needed to move forward’’.

In the second matchmaking event, Biofach 2022 in Nuremberg, 4 organic certified companies exhibited their products at ProFound’s Organic Africa Pavilion. A further 6 companies who are working towards organic certification participated in a study tour: consisting of a retail tour to learn about European products and pricing, and a guided tour at Biofach for orientation and learning purposes.

Outcomes and Successes

ProFound’s work with the 22 agribusinesses yielded some exciting outcomes, such as the joint collaboration between a private sector company and a farmer’s co-operative in the project. Furthermore, participation in Biofach resulted in concrete sales, including a request for a full container of honey, and two business deal involving more than 100 containers of sesame seeds, and 11 containers of soya bean. Given the short time frame of the project, we are proud to have achieved these results in conjunction with the Ethiopia agribusinesses.

Our activities within the Ethiopian agri-business sector are part of ProFound’s compliance, market analysis, and market entry solution. We strive to continue to share our specialised knowledge in East Africa, and welcome new opportunities from global donors and organizations, as well as SMEs targeting entry to export markets.

Do you need more information? Contact our expert.

Bert-Jan Ottens
Bert-Jan OttensOwner and Senior Adviser
Bert-Jan Ottens is the founder of ProFound – Advisers In Development and Senior Adviser. He is also the founder of Blue Rhino (rural finance) and Green Rhino Kenya (‘Healthy Green Choice’). He has a background in international economic development, and policy and management studies of developing countries.