How British aid is helping Ethiopia's economy to grow
20 May 2013 Last updated at 12:58 GMTHelp
The African Union is celebrating its 50th anniversary and leaders from all over the continent are gathering in Ethiopia.
A country that was once known for its famines and international donations, Ethiopia is now showing some of the fastest growth rates in the world.
George Alagiah reports.ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia -- For Bethlehem Tilahun, the answer to ending poverty in Africa is not aid or sympathy or donations from the West. It's shoes.
Specifically, building a successful shoe
20 May 2013 Last updated at 12:58 GMTmanufacturing business that creates jobs, empowers employees, like the one she founded — SoleRebels, the first ever global footwear company to come out of a developing country.
“You don't build your economy based on aid, you want to build your economy based on the way SoleRebels built its business, so that it's sustainable,” Bethlehem told AFP.
SoleRebels highlights how burgeoning enterprises can transform economies across Africa.
By shifting away from a reliance on exporting raw materials to the production of premium products such as shoes, Africa can ease its dependency on aid and slowly move toward industrialized growth.
Founded in 2004, SoleRebels now employs around 150 Ethiopians producing shoes with hand-spun Ethiopian cotton, rubber and leather for export in over 65 stores around the world.
She believes creating jobs, supporting local industries and transforming Africa's image abroad will have lasting impact on economies across the continent in ways that traditional aid cannot.
“That is sustainable, and that's the only way of getting out of poverty,” she said, sitting in her flagship store in downtown Addis Ababa.
With a growth rate of 7.2 percent, according to the World Bank, Ethiopia is one of the fastest growing economies in the world.
But, paradoxically, it also remains one of the top recipients of aid in Africa.
Today, the Ethiopian government is keen on boosting private investment, increasing trade and transforming the agriculture-based economy into an industry-based one, mimicking development models from Asia, such as South Korea or China.
For Bethlehem, it is not only about moving from aid to trade, it is about building a savvy business and manufacturing a product that resonates with customers from France to Taiwan, not because its made in Ethiopia, but because it is a good shoe.
“People see them and say 'wow, cool shoes!' without necessarily knowing they are made in Ethiopia. To me, that is critical,” she said.
She is intent on marketing her product in exactly the same way as longer-established Western-based companies market theirs.
“We are not saying ... 'we're poor, we're in Africa, we're doing this to help the poor'. We have a brand, and we strongly believe in what we're doing,” she said, lighting up at she gazes at the racks of shoes in her wood-lined store.
Trade, Not Aid
Born in a poor neighborhood in Ethiopia's capital, Bethlehem said she was inspired at a young age to go against the grain, especially after seeing how little impact traditional aid had in her community and her country.