Meseret Warner: The Social Impact Advocate

‘The window may be closed, but I will find a crack!’

Meseret Warner was born and raised in the evergreen city of Bahir Dar. She was the eldest of five siblings raised by a single mother who cultivated a deep reverence for learning that was the foundation for her journey.

Meseret’s life trajectory began to change in her final year of high school when political turmoil erupted in the country. She was separated from her family without a warning and ended up in a refugee camp in Kenya. A teenager who has never set foot outside of a few cities in Ethiopia, found herself in a foreign land, alone. This was a pivotal time in shaping her robust sense of self.  After a few months, through some divine intervention, among thousands of refugees, she was one of the few to receive a scholarship opportunity to schools in Canada with an organization called WUSC [World University Service of Canada].

After arduous applications and assessments, Meseret was accepted at The University of Regina to do her bachelor’s degree in science. Being one of the very few Africans in one of the country’s coldest provinces was overwhelming initially. Despite all the challenges, Meseret persevered while also excelling academically. Yet after two years, Meseret decided medicine wasn’t for her and embarked on figuring out her next move. Luckily, she hopped over to the computer science train without losing her two-year science and mathematics electives. After three more years of grunt work, she graduated and landed her first job as a fresh graduate.

Amidst the growing popularity and demand for computer science in the 2000’s, Meseret faced little impediment in commencing her professional path. She was a programmer/analyst at Statistics Canada, the national statistical office. Her responsibilities were to collect, analyze, and disseminate statistical information about Canada’s population, economy, and society which are crucial inputs to the decision-making process of government institutions, businesses, and the public.

Meseret’s yearning to return to her motherland peaked with the loss of her mother. She landed a job as an ICT Advisor to the Ethiopian Central Statistical Agency [CSA] through an engagement with the Canadian International Development Agency and headed to Ethiopia. In her new role, she was responsible for designing and developing CSA’s first website and database to centralize modern systems. Organizing and implementing the new system wasn’t an easy task as it was a vast and complex database to be used by governmental agencies, donors, businesses, and researchers. The Ethiopian government requested a one-year extension of her contract which she completed successfully.

Driven by curiosity for the global tech ecosystems and societal progress, Meseret resolved to get her Master’s degree in Globalization and Development at the University of Manchester. Thereafter, she joined the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, working as an Information Management Officer for six months. She honed her experience in using tech-enabled solutions and developed a database to coordinate the overwhelming response to the 2010 flooding humanitarian disaster in Northern Sindh of Pakistan.

2011 marked the beginning of a new chapter in Meseret’s life. She got married and moved to the United States of America. Then, she transcended her boundaries and ventured into the world of entrepreneurship in Bizdom Cleveland. Meseret built a web-based startup from scratch. While pitching the business idea, she landed an offer to become CEO of one of the existing web-based Bizdom group of companies. Although she declined the incredible job offer, it gave her a road map to her next endeavor in Ethiopia. In 2014, Meseret’s impeccable networking and copious experience got her foot in the Addis Africa International Conventional & Exhibition Center[AAICEC] – a ‘Public- Private Partnership project’ as a Deputy general manager and marketing manager. In her role at AAICEC, she focused on implementing effective integrated marketing and sales strategies including organizational restructuring to raise millions of dollars in funding from domestic and international investors. Through her hands-on involvement, Meseret became well-versed in the Ethiopian economy.

Observing the prevalence of poverty despite decades of donor support, Meseret was determined to understand why the crisis continues. Believing a thriving private sector and job creation are key to addressing this, she paved the way to identify and support scalable small businesses that can become the engines of the economy. After supporting many businesses including facilitating a multi-million dollar joint venture between MACCFA Freight Logistics and global giant CEVA Logistics, marking only the second and most significant FDI in Ethiopia’s logistics sector, Meseret reinvented her consulting firm, Ignite Investment, by launching Ethiopia’s first and Africa’s unique equity crowdfunding platform.

As a founder and Managing director of Ignite Investment, Meseret works to improve the critical lack of access to finance, especially for African Women Entrepreneurs by facilitating financing and supporting their growth. Today, her greatest achievement is supporting women’s businesses to maximize their potential given that she has a track record of engagement in women’s empowerment causes. Namely; African Women Entrepreneurs Program [AWEP]- as a president, supports the Amhara Women Entrepreneur Association, a member of the Center for Accelerated Women Economic Empowerment (CAWEE), and AWiB. Currently, she is the Women’s Economic Empowerment Technical Advisor in a project funded by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit [GIZ].

Addressing stereotypes women face in tech and finance, Meseret encourages more women to pursue male-dominated STEM fields, while stressing the importance of having mentors. She is passionate about Africa’s bright future while noting the many challenges. She believes Africans must solve Africa’s problems, primarily through entrepreneurship, investment, and trade rather than relying on aid. She is most grateful for her family, friends, and overall well-being.

Meseret emphasizes the significance of having a work-life balance for entrepreneurs; her yearly vacation trips can attest to that. For Meseret, leadership is characterized by a willingness to listen and learn with the ability to inspire.

‘I think AWiB is doing a remarkable job. I have seen many businesses grow out of AWiB throughout the years. It is amazing to witness successful women entrepreneurs as a result, this lies close to my heart,’ Meseret commented.

AWiB thanks Meseret Warner for her time, and commends her courageous spirit!

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