A taxi is already waiting for Adey Fissahatsion outside of the Dutch Embassy in Addis Ababa. She jumps on the backseat. The driver starts talking to her in Amharic, the local accent, but she shakes her head and whispers ‘sorry’. Born to Ethiopian parents, she grew up in the Netherlands where she studied Law and Marketing. Her grandparents made her return to her roots in late 2012. A few months later she started working for the Ethiopian Netherlands Business Association (ENLBA). The main aim of the association is to facilitate and assist Dutch entrepreneurs in Ethiopia and to help inform those interested in starting up.

Traffic is bad this morning. Her white and blue taxi is soon stuck in between Ladas, these unpretentious Russian cars that widely populate the streets of Ethiopia’s capital. The city’s construction boom further challenges the driver’s patience. Trying to register ENLBA at the beginning of 2013 tested Adey’s patience. “Often within the current categorisation frenzy there is little room for things that don’t fit immediately. So you have to approach things from different angles, which takes more time,” she says. For now, the association is embedded within the Netherlands Embassy and as coordinator she can focus on lobbying, assisting individual companies and organising the three-monthly meetings ('borreloverleg'). “Above all it’s about sharing knowledge,” she explains.


After another 15 minutes, she indicates the driver to stop. She jumps out of the car and skilfully swerves around the potholes with her high heels. “A certain kind of people is needed to be successful in Ethiopia,” she sums up the foreign investor’s scene. “In essence the Dutch entrepreneurs are adventurers. In the end, it will be worth it, not only financially. They are happy to be here and are doing a good job.” On behalf of ENLBA, she has brought together self-employed consultants with general managers of big international companies. She also met with NGOs that work on youth-unemployment. “It’s about being aware of each other, hands-on problem-solving and see where it would be interesting to work together,” she says. The members seem to understand the added value and potential. They willingly pay the membership fee of €200 (€100 for self-employed) for getting connected, useful information and receiving help when dealing with the authorities.

“The Netherlands Embassy is the focal point for European businesses active in the horticulture sector,” she explains and adds: “The Dutch business community in general enjoys a high reputation across Ethiopia.” In a male-dominated world, negotiations can be tough but the woman with short braided hair does not seem to be intimidated easily. Her western upbringing has made her more straightforward and realistic, also in terms of Dutch entrepreneurs and their commitment to Ethiopia. “They remain entrepreneurs so it would be strange to stick around for the next 100 years when opportunities arise elsewhere,” she says firmly. Her initial intention was to stay for only a year, but she most likely will hail down a couple of more taxis for the ENLBA.