Ethiopia’s Tech Industry Emerges

By Hiruy Fekre, Addis Fortune

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – As people go online to meet and interact with friends and relatives or put up their latest photos, young homegrown entrepreneurs are creating money making opportunities and getting their share of the booming internet marketplace.

Three companies are reaching Ethiopian customers in the millions according to quantcast.com, alexa.com and other leading web audience research organizations. In addition, one of them, mekina.net, has been showcased as one of the two largest internet companies in Ethiopia, valued at 500,000 dollars in a June 2014 article by the Economist magazine; DireTube, a media and entertainment website, came in first at two million dollars.

Araya Lakew of Mekina.net and co-worker handling daily operations in Getu Building head office. (photo: Addis Fortune)
Araya Lakew of Mekina.net and co-worker handling daily operations in Getu Building head office. (photo: Addis Fortune)

When Araya Lakew, 32, founded Mekina.net in 2010, there were only 200,000 facebook users in Ethiopia; in the four years since then that number has grown more than nine fold to 1.9 million, with nearly 50,000 of them liking its facebook page. Going by the click, another business that does business online, delala.com, has amassed over 111,000 likes.

As the number of internet users in Ethiopia grows, a number of companies that try to do business online are thriving despite the absence of an online payment system and an efficient delivery system for items bought online. Local players, such as mekina.net and delala.com have recently been joined by et.kaymu.com, an online business with a presence in 30 countries, which launched an online market place from its office at Lucky Tower, an upscale neighborhood behind Edna Mall in Bole.

As the Amharic name indicates Mekina.net deals in cars. The business model Araya says, is to showcase cars for which he charges 250 Birr for every advertisement with a discount for long term users. Additionally he also sells various types of ads to local companies. Araya said that he built his business mainly through online ads and search engine optimization (SEO), which makes a website more visible in search engine results. For example when typing “Vitz” and “Ethiopia” next to each other in Google, Mekina.net shows up among the very first in the list.

When he first started, the biggest challenge was finding domestic users.

“Most people in Ethiopia use the internet for only email and Facebook,” said Araya, who considers Mekina.net an “ad platform for buyers and sellers of cars.”

He sums up the overall purpose of his site as “a community website facilitating the buying and selling of cars.”

Read more at: Addis Fortune

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