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RENEW & Gender Equality in Ethiopia

Woman standing at desk.


Close your eyes for a few minutes and imagine that you are a businesswoman in East Africa. What inequalities might you face? What extra challenges might come into play as you go about the daily work of growing your business? Are there extra family obligations your life might entail that your male counterparts don’t typically face? How about equal access to land, finance and markets?

According to a recent study conducted by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), sub‑Saharan Africa (SSA) has the largest proportion of financially constrained small and medium enterprises (SMEs) (54%) in the world. Women-owned SMEs in SSA face additional barriers to trade and finance because they often lack the collateral, banking relationships and market linkages afforded to their male counterparts. The same IFC study outlines that, despite their smaller average size, female‑owned businesses in SSA account for an outsized share of the finance gap, at $42 billion.

As an example, Little Gabies is a textile manufacturing company in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, owned by a female entrepreneur. The company specializes in producing handmade baby and toddler blankets (gabies), baby footwear, headbands and diaper bags. The company prides itself on producing environmentally friendly products, which are 100% natural, handwoven and suitable for babies. The cotton for the blankets comes from local organic cotton farmers. Spinners produce the yarn, and weavers make each blanket by hand. The company currently has 12 employees and works with more than 20 spinners to process cotton.

Woman standing at desk.
Amelsa Yazew - Founder/owner of Little Gabies in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Global Affairs Canada worked with RENEW to design and implement the Accelerating Business Growth (ABG) project in Ethiopia. ABG helps address some of the challenges faced by companies like Little Gabies. The project helps SMEs, especially women-owned and managed companies, access finance from a growing network of domestic and international angel investors committed to building Ethiopia’s economy. The ABG project goes beyond addressing access to capital; it provides an executive training program for the C‑suite of companies, helping them build and strengthen their governance, financial management and sales and marketing. All of this aims to create thousands of jobs in Ethiopia and build a vibrant and sustainable local economy.

Here are some numbers that we are tracking for the ABG to keep us focused on building gender equality:

  • 40% of the SMEs that have received an investment from our angel investors have female shareholders. We want this to get above 50%.
  • 70% of the jobs provided across our portfolio are held by women.
  • 40% of participants in The Exec’s Program are women. We will push to get this to 50%.
  • 38% of the professionals in the CFO100 program are women. We want more!
  • 39, or 27%, of the North American angel investors are women. We want to have more women join the Impact Angel Network.
  • 50% of the RENEW team that manages the ABG project are women. Gender balanced!

Why is gender equality so important for projects like ABG? Just as women are often the backbone of a family, they are also the backbone of an economy. And this is why all of the work we do at RENEW and with our partners at Global Affairs Canada emphasizes gender empowerment and equality.

So please stay in touch to keep learning about the high‑impact work we are doing in sub‑Saharan Africa. There is much more coming on the horizon.

The Accelerating Business Growth (ABG) project is undertaken with support from the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada. The Impact Angel Network (IAN) is one of the largest North American-based angel networks for Africa. RENEW is an impact investment firm working in Ethiopia that implements the ABG project and manages the IAN. To find out more about the ABG project, contact us at, follow us on X (Twitter) @RENEWLLC or find us on Instagram @impactangelnetwork.

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