A Timeline of Growth in Ethiopia

Like any good researcher turned entrepreneur, Tadesse Edesa’s growth since winning the 2015 African Entrepreneurship Award has been scientific, calculated, and following an upward trajectory. The entrepreneur from Tanzania holds a PhD in waste management and is the founder of GreenJimma. Tadesse and GreenJimma won $150,000 in the Award’s Environment category.

GreenJimma is a community based waste management company creating compost and organic fertilizers for farmers and gardeners.  The growth of GreenJimma, from application to Award disbursement, provides a great window into the effectiveness of the Award’s mentoring program, as well as the follow-up milestones for award disbursement.



June 2015

Tadesse Edesa submits an online application to the 2015 African Entrepreneurship Award.  At the time, the post-doctoral student saw the need to deal with the 88,000kg of daily solid waste generated by the city of Jimma, Ethiopia (200,000 people). In his studies of the problem, Tadesse finds that over 50% of the waste is biodegradable, and another 16% is recyclable. And the problem: Only 25% of this daily tonnage is dealt with by municipal collection services, causing health and sanitation problems in the city.

Tadesse saw the chance to turn this problem in to potential. GreenJimma was born. In Jimma, Tadesse sees a huge market need for affordable, natural fertilizers in the largely agricultural region. With all of this biomass left dumped, the opportunities for organic fertilizers were huge.

At this point on the Journey, Round 1 mentors encouraged Tadesse to clearly explain his financial and marketing models, as well as how he would integrate technology into the business idea.


August 2015

Tadesse’s GreenJimma is selected as a “Business Idea most needed in the region.” He soon follows with his Round 2 submission. At this point, Tadesse pitched the potential scalability of his idea. He mentions Kenya, the rest of Ethiopia, and other East African countries where the “waste management burden” is heavy.

In round 2, Tadesse more clearly explains his business model. His waste leasing strategy means that “households supply both sorted and unsorted waste” and in return participants receive discounts on finished compost and fertilizers.

Round 2 mentors pushed the scientist/entrepreneur to clarify some areas. “Statistics quoted are old. We are in 2015. Has the situation changed? Please work on getting current situations in that region.” And another, “You mentioned income generation, but you didn’t mention the jobs that will be created. What type of jobs?”


September 2015

Round 3 opens and Tadesse finds himself still in the game with a Business Idea Most Likely to Succeed across Africa. The scientist turned entrepreneur has continued to clarify his idea for mentors and future investors. He further explains his revenue assumptions, and also the science behind GreenJimma. Tadesse says that “I use mechanical turning technology and scientific mix of feed stock to produce compost in 3 to 4 months’ time.” This expedited procedure will allow Tadesse to get out more products and process more biomass.


Later on in September, Tadesse received a Site Visit from an African Entrepreneurship Award Team. The Team learned more about GreenJimma and experienced Jimma life first-hand.


October 2015

In early October, Global Mentors selected Tadesse’s idea as “Most Significant and Sustainable in Africa,” which earned him an invite to the Boot Camp in Morocco. Tadesse joined 33 other Finalists in the 2015 edition’s Presidential Week. That week saw Tadesse transform into a scientist with a high potential idea, into an entrepreneur with a confident pitch for investors. And, with flashbulbs all around, Tadesse’s name was called and he won $150,000 to scale up GreenJimma.


That fall, the work continued.



Late 2015, 1st disbursement of Award Funding

The African Entrepreneurship Award Team insists that the mentoring and the money make a difference. Tadesse, with the help of the Team and a mentor, began to set three milestones for the next year. With each milestone, cash was disbursed to the business account.

Milestone 1 dealt specifically with land and materials. To scale up GreenJimma, Tadesse would need incrased capacity.  There were bumps in the road, as Tadesse said that there were “ups and downs in some bureaucratic organizations. For instance, it took me more days than I expected to get a licence and land for the project.” Utimately, the entrepreneur made it happen. Tadesse says “I was able to purchase land in a sub-city of Jimma and start site construction on 2 more satellite cities outside of Jimma.”


Early 2016, 2nd disbursement of Award Funding

With the completion of his first milestone, Tadesse put it bluntly. With Milestone 2, his goal was “to start waste collection for production.” He was ready to get things going. Tadesse says that his vision has not wavered, “to make healthy fertilizers affordable, while dealing with waste management in my community.” This impact was spreading, and with milestone 2, his revenue grew. GreenJimma collected over 100,000kgs of materials in two months alone. During the summer of 2016, challenges did arise though. Rainy season and poor infrastructure hampered Tadesse’s ability to access his raw materials. However, by the fall, GreenJimma was ready to continue their growth.


Middle 2016, 3rd disbursement of Award Funding

Milestone 3’s goal was “to start to sell the products and generate revenue.” At this point on his journey, Tadesse began to see the profits roll in. With these profits, GreenJimma is on a healthy road to financial sustainability and they can continue to scale up the business in the region.


The Timeline Continues into the Future

Tadesse and GreenJimma continue on the path to scaling up a good thing.  Tadesse’s passion remains to create jobs and improve lives, and specifically to deal with thousands of tons of organic material and provide affordable, organic fertilizers. On site in Jimma reveals a beautiful facility with contained compost units, and potted plants and flowers growing all around. The aesthete, academic, and successful entrepreneur continues to bring his beautiful vision throughout Ethiopia and eventually across more borders in Africa.