Ethiopia: Asylum seekers learn how to run a business
18 July 2011

A Sudanese refugee who runs a cafeteria in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The JRS business skills training helps refugees set up small businesses in order to sustain themselves and their families. (Christian Fuchs/JRS)
"I want to be an entrepreneur in the future and with the skills I gained here, I will be successful." (Eritrean refugee)
Addis Ababa, 18 July 2011 – Eighteen asylum seekers and undocumented refugees now have sufficient knowledge to start their own business, after participating in a four-day workshop in basic business skills, organised by JRS in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

"Business skills are important because they help you become independent and sustain your family, no matter where you will live in the future", said the Project Director of the JRS Emergency Needs Programme, Hanna Petros, at the beginning of the training.

During the four days, participants learned how to identify and develop a business idea, and –plan, and how to implement that plan and run a small scale business, including all the financial and management skills this involves.

The facilitator, Ambaches Tesfaye, an Ethiopian who comes from a business background himself, stressed the importance of a proper market analysis and explained what it means to own a business.He also introduced the group to methods for running a business successfully.

Training responds to an urgent need

"Asylum seekers we have supported in Addis Ababa have repeatedly asked for a workshop on business management", explains Ms Petros."Given that they use whatever cash they can get to engage in petty trade, such as retailing of spices, vegetables or tea on the city’s sidewalks, we have identified it as an urgent need", she adds.

Participants were between 19 and 36 years old.They came from Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC); seven of them were women.

"While not all of them showed the same talent, the overall majority of participants has clearly shown an entrepreneurial spirit and developed very good skills to run their own business", Mr Tesfaye said.

As the evaluation forms revealed, majority of the participants said the workshop surpassed their expectations."This workshop helped me to develop sufficient skills to start a small scale business that will provide a regular income for me and my family in the future", a Congolese asylum seeker said."It gives me a perspective because I can make use of it while still in exile as well as upon return to my country of origin", he added.

Gaining ideas, skills and a perspective

"I had no particular business idea in mind when I came here.But this workshop gave me some ideas and the skills to implement them which makes me happy", an asylum seeker from Sudan said.

"My mother retails incense by the side of the road while I sat at home, doing nothing because I lacked the skills.This workshop helped me understand how to run a business. Now, I can help my mother", said a Somali participant.

"This training was an eye-opener for me.I want to be an entrepreneur in the future and with the skills I gained here, I will be successful", said an Eritrean asylum seeker.

At the end of the workshop each participant received a certificate of participation.For some participants it was the first time to take part in a workshop.

Through its Emergency Needs Programme, JRS helps asylum seekers and undocumented refugees in Addis Ababa improve their skills and knowledge in various areas, such as gender mainstreaming, female genital mutilation, prevention of diseases and family planning.At the end of 2011, 150 refugees will have improved their knowledge in these areas.

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Angelika Mendes
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