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AWiB Annual May Forum 2024

May 30 @ 8:30 am 6:00 pm

AWiB Annual May Forum 2024

Join AWiB on Thursday, 30th of May, 2024, at the UNCC for a one-day forum with prominent speakers—eminent personalities and leaders—to be inspired and re-energized, and to work on your next steps of personal, business and professional development.


May, 30 2024 at 8:30 AM – 6 PM

2000 ETB: Non-Members

1700 ETB: Members

AWiB Annual May Forum 2024

AWiB Annual May Forum, held every year at UNCC and attended by up to 500 participants, is about AWiB’s capacity and contribution to the nation.  Organized for the tenth year the conference cultivates a culture of dialogue and reflection. This year’s theme is “Agile Leadership:  From Authority to Partnership.”

AWiB a membership-driven leadership association and networking platform operational since April 2010, is committed to developing women’s personal and professional competencies. The association does so by creating a platform for information-sharing, learning and supporting its members’ development through weekly, monthly and annual events (workshops, seminars, and Round Table Discussions) and online media.

We have been in a state of transition good or bad for the past six years with uncertainty looming at every corner in what direction we, as a country, will be heading.  This uncertainty is built in the people for many reasons: the continuous conflict rising among citizens, ethnic based violence, economic hardship and uncontrollable inflation. The lack of protection of citizens by the government from forced internal displacement and ethnic-based violence have built a sense of insecurity and frustration resulting in lack of trust in the system.

Politically, the government led by Prime Minister Abiy had taken many reforms and actions to liberalize the country’s political sphere moving towards a democratic state. Some of the bold reforms and actions had been the lift of restrictions on access to the Internet, the release of pioneer opposing journalists, politicians and bloggers, and the revisit of repressive laws that used to silence the citizens by the parliament paving a way for freedom of expression. 

However, some of these bold moves seem to regress overtime. A polarized, fragmented, unstable political atmosphere that is covered by seemingly irreconcilable demands of various ethnic parties and other interest groups challenge any sustainable reforms. This fear of the unknown has been aggravated by the unclear intentions of the ruling government. The continuous unrest has also shredded the trust people have within their communities hindering open discussions of one’s political standpoint.  This has made collaboration and transition difficult making the change socially unpredictable. 

Historically, we as a nation have a poor track record facilitating a smooth transition between regimes until recently.  Although the transfer of power has been exemplary for the continent and world, its sustainability is at risk.  Looking at our current situation with a critical view, we as citizens have not yet gone through the transition – the psychological process that happens within us in response to the change. 

As a community, we lack the culture of dialogue. As a result, our relationship experience is mostly authority/subordinate based making it difficult for us to find a collaborative environment that builds partnership.  Furthermore, we are a community used to being led instead of proactively taking ownership of and responsibility for our agendas.  We do not have the habit or the courage of asking questions.  To add to all these cultural challenges, the scarcity mentality embedded in our society is creating disputes over resources and stagnating creativity.

Read the full concept note

Samrawit Meressa, AWiB’s 2023 President

Samrawit Meressa is a young and energetic leader. She has diverse experiences in Business. She is a Production Managing Director on the “Titilo” show broadcasted on DSTV and an Assistant Manager at Zoskales Diamond – a family business. Influenced by her father at an early age she is very passionate about jewelry design and strives to make her dream of designing a reality.  Samrawit has gone to great lengths on the path to self-discovery. She believes it is a continuous learning process and one she is happy to share with a young college student of the Meri program.

Hikmet Abdella, Former Director General of the Accounting and Auditing Board of Ethiopia (AABE) (Nov 2019 – May 2024) and Governance Board Member of International Non-Profit Accounting Guidelines (INPAG)

Hikmet Abdella has served as the Director General of Accounting and Auditing Board of Ethiopia (AABE) for over four years. She plays a pivotal role in the reform process of the accountancy profession in Ethiopia with a vision to set up the Ethiopian Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Hikmet is widely known as the first Country Head of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), where she successfully established the National office. She also headed a successful family business. Hikmet chairs a working group on an ESG Code for Ethiopia along with IFC. She has recently been appointed as the Chair of the advisory Council to establish the Institute of Directors of Ethiopia under Addis Ababa Chamber of Commerce and Sectorial Association. She seats on Boards of the Ethiopian Red Cross, Capital Market Authority, the Global Governance l Board of INPAG, and the Center for Dialogue, Research and Cooperation (CDRC) which is an independent Ethiopia-based non-profit think tank.

Speaker: Professor Panos Hatziandreas, GM and Head of School at Lebawi International Academy

Panagiotis (Panos) Hatziandreas  is a highly accomplished senior-level educational administrator and tenured college professor with over 30 years of experience. With a diverse background that spans educational leadership and administration, consulting, teaching, and clinical psychotherapy, Panos has made significant contributions to the development of educational institutions and programs. Currently, as Head of School and General Manager at Lebawi International Academy in Ethiopia, he oversees operations, curriculum development, and a team of 100+ employees. Panos also works as an educational consultant, collaborating with U.S. institutions to develop study abroad programs. He has a strong teaching background and has served as a tenured professor at Cascadia College. Panos holds a Doctorate in Organizational Development and has made significant contributions through board memberships and grants. His expertise and passion for education and leadership development drive his impactful contributions in the field.

Speaker: Aster Solomon, Owner, Mosaic Hotel

Aster Solomon  is the co-founder and general manager of Ethiopia’s first GIS service company, Information Systems Services (ISS). She is one of the founders of Enat Bank where she served on the Board of Directors for six years. Aster also serves as general manager of New English Private School (NEPS), a family-owned school that spans pre-KG to high school. The school’s student body is made up of local and international students. Aster has rich experience in establishing and managing businesses and large-scale projects. She has accumulated vast managerial skills through her 20-plus years of experience working in government, private sector, and as a consultant in local & international organizations.

Speaker: Dr. Fisseha Eshetu HabteMariam, CEO of Purpose Black

Dr. Fisseha Eshetu is a distinguished professional known for exceptional contributions to academia, entrepreneurship, and healthcare. With an MD degree, he is a leading figure in the medical field, while also making significant strides in academia and entrepreneurship. As the founder of Unity University, he has mentored future professionals and advanced academic excellence. As the CEO of Purpose Black Ethiopia, he spearheads initiatives for social impact and sustainable development, earning recognition as a trailblazer in social entrepreneurship. Dr. Eshetu’s career exemplifies a rare blend of medical expertise, academic excellence, and entrepreneurial leadership, leaving an enduring mark on healthcare, academia, and the community.

Moderator: Aster Asfaw, Certified Executive Leadership Coach

Aster Asfaw is a certified Executive Leadership Coach, freelance trainer, and mentor known for her expertise in leadership, life skills, personal development, and child care. She served SOS Children’s Villages as an International Representative, overseeing operations across ten African countries. She also led this esteemed organization as a Country Director for approximately six years. Her life’s mission revolves around selfless service, rooted in sharing and nurturing, with a paramount goal of empowering individuals to unlock their inherent potential and flourish in every facet of life. She seizes each opportunity for continual learning, unlearning, and relearning, steadfastly committed to both personal and professional growth.

Speaker: Yasser Bagersh, Communication Strategist, Cactus Group CEO

Yasser Bagersh is the CEO of the largest communication agency network in Ethiopia comprising Cactus Communication, Omnimedia, Prologue, and Way Marketing. With offices spanning over 20 cities across the country, he oversees diverse operations including a large catering company providing thousands of meals daily to major corporations. He occasionally showcases his culinary skills at his own restaurant, the Lime Tree. Moreover, Yasser volunteers for Our Father’s Kitchen, an organization he founded, which feeds 400 children daily. An ardent art collector, he actively supports the artist community by organizing multiple arts events annually and engaging in various workshops and speaking engagements. Yasser takes pride in his connection to Addis Ababa and beyond.

Moderator: Ethiopis Tadesse, Communications Manager at Palladium

Ethiopis Tadesse is a communications practitioner, Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM), and certified soft skills trainer. With extensive experience in crafting impactful communication and marketing strategies, she has worked across diverse sectors including international NGOs, corporations, and government entities.
As a Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM), Ethiopis has demonstrated leadership in public speaking and development, holding positions at various levels. She is dedicated to youth empowerment and community service, serving as a Rotarian and being selected as a Mandela Washington Fellow and Young African Leadership Institute (YALI) fellow.
Ethiopis has trained over 3,000 individuals in communication and employability skills, utilizing her marketing and communication background to empower youth and professionals throughout Ethiopia.

Speaker: Shani Senbetta, COO of Zeleman Communications, CEO of Kidame Mart

Shani Senbetta is founder and CEO of the social enterprise Kidame Mart, Ethiopia’s largest last-mile distribution network, empowering rural female micro-entrepreneurs to earn incomes by selling high impact goods door-to-door in their communities.  Shani is also COO of Zeleman Communications, Advertising and Production, the largest communications and advertising company in Ethiopia with over 120 full-time employees. Shani has a BA from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, an MBA from Harvard University and was a Fulbright Scholar.  She is passionate about addressing social problems with innovative private-sector solutions.  She is a Young Global Leader who tirelessly advocates for policy change and public-private partnerships to enable social enterprises and rural women to thrive.

Speaker: Zelalem Woldemariam, CEO, Zeleman Communications

Zelalem Woldemariam is an award-winning filmmaker and the founder, CEO, and Chief Creative Director of Zeleman, a full-service agency delivering impactful marketing campaigns. Originally established in 2005, Zeleman has grown to meet the diverse demands of a global clientele. Zelalem’s vision and leadership have empowered a creative team to achieve success. Zeleman employs over 140 professionals, pushing creative boundaries to deliver elevated campaigns and expand Ethiopia’s creative industries through mentorship and job creation. Zelalem’s passion for filmmaking extends to promoting films shot with smartphones. As a Managing Partner of SmartPhilm, he empowers Ethiopian youth to express themselves through short smart films, democratizing the filmmaking industry. Additionally, Zelalem serves as Vice President of the Ethiopian Advertising Council, influencing and shaping the advertising and media industry in Ethiopia.

Moderator: Kidist Gebreamlak, CEO, Zero-One Zero-One

Kidist Gebreamlak is a visionary leader dedicated to fostering entrepreneurship and enhancing skills in underrepresented groups, including refugees. As the Founder & CEO of Eleos Groups LLC and Co-Founder & CEO of Zero One Zero One Tech & Entrepreneurship Africa, she focuses on entrepreneurial training and fostering resilience. Kidist’s role as a Business & Strategy Consultant for Tebita Ambulance showcases her commitment to accessible and equitable services. Her tenure at Gebeya Inc. as a Training and Skills Development Manager highlighted her ability to create comprehensive strategies for job and skill enhancement. As a Lead Trainer with CIPE Ethiopia, she tailors entrepreneurship curricula to empower women in diverse environments. Kidist’s academic background and contributions to STEM education demonstrate her multifaceted approach to development and empowerment.

Speaker: Samrawit Fikru, CEO, Hybrid Designs

Samrawit Fikru, born and raised in Assela, Ethiopia, defied limited resources and embraced technology from a young age. Founding Hybrid Designs, she launched RIDE, Ethiopia’s popular transport-hailing app, revolutionizing the transportation landscape. Samrawit leads as the CEO of RIDE, driving growth and innovation. Her entrepreneurial spirit extends to diverse ventures, including chairing Sewasew Multimedia, Ethiopia’s streaming platform, expanding access to information. Dedicated to empowering youth, she founded Creative Kingdom NGO, fostering creativity and innovation. As Vice President of the ICT-ET association, Samrawit promotes Ethiopia’s ICT sector. She contributes to Ethiopia’s financial development as a Board Member at the Innovative Finance Lab Ethiopia and the Entrepreneurial Forum for Peace and Development. Samrawit’s unwavering commitment to progress transcends her own ventures, making a lasting impact on Ethiopia’s tech and financial landscapes.

Speaker: Selamawit Girmay, Regional Director, Human Rights Monitoring and Investigation Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC)

Selamawit Girmay is a highly accomplished legal professional with over 20 years of experience in various roles, including legal researcher, judge, project head, and senior advisor. She graduated from Addis Ababa University Law Faculty and received post-graduate leadership training at the McCain Institute, Arizona State University, USA. During her tenure, she led impactful initiatives in child justice administration, establishing child-friendly courts, social work units, legal protection centers, and a comprehensive referral system. She also played key roles in court reform and coordinating responses to violence against women and children. Selamawit served as an appellate judge and currently holds the position of Regional Director for Human Rights Monitoring and Investigation. Her extensive education, training, and expertise in law, leadership, and human rights have made her a respected leader in her field.

Speaker: Semhal Geush Berhe, CEO, Kabana Leather

Semhal Guesh is the founder and CEO of Kabana Design, a startup producing handmade leather products. With her architectural training, she enhances designs in the leather fashion industry and aims to economically empower women by recruiting and training them, along with refugees, as employees of KABANA. She leads a consortium of 12 enterprises repurposing factories to manufacture personal protective equipment, supported by the Mastercard Foundation, saving over 1060 jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Beyond Kabana, Semhal mentors women entrepreneurs and has received accolades such as the 2018 Young Female Entrepreneur of the Year from the United Nations Development Programme and Global Entrepreneurship Week. She was also honored with the 2021 Dinknesh Leadership Award. Semhal is a member of the Association of Women in Boldness, completed a prestigious Sustainable Business Management program, and participated in President Obama’s Young African Leadership Program and the Mandela Washington Fellowship. Recently, she was selected as one of the top 50 finalists for Africa Business Heroes 2021.

Moderator: Egziharya Meshesha, AWiB’s 2024 President-Elect

Egziharya Meshesha is a dedicated professional with a bachelor’s degree in international business administration. With a strong background in business management and adept communication skills, she has excelled in roles like Member Relations Manager and Advisory Associate. Egziharya’s milestones include orchestrating workshops, overseeing office operations at AWiB, and spearheading market research at Sun Sisters Trading PLC. She is a passionate advocate for women’s and children’s empowerment. Egziharya’s commitment to self-improvement is evident through her acquisition of vital skills in communication, marketing, and member recruitment. Her expertise in planning, organizing, and executing tasks consistently delivers commendable results in high-pressure environments.

AWiB Annual May Forum 2024

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