Seven years ago, a young Ethiopian in his early 20's heard rumors of investors coming to his hometown. He didn't know why and he didn't know for what, but he did know they would need a place to stay. The ambitious entrepreneur, Abebe, Getahun, searched and searched until he found the perfect spot to build a lodge which happened to be at the top of a nearby mountain. The only problem was he didn't have any money. Because no one else at the time was interested, the government let him reserve the land until he had the funds to purchase it.
His instincts led him well, because fast forward to the present and now over 20 different investors, both local and foreign, have gained interest in acquiring his very property. After continuous pressure to start building or lose the land, Abebe took all of the money he made during the past seven years and was finally able to purchase the land only a couple months ago.
It is still just the beginning for Abebe though who plans to make it an eco-lodge named Harbay.
“It will be built using only local materials such as our beautiful red stone, and its style will resemble traditional Ethiopian tekkuls yet with modern amenities,” says Abebe.
The idea for the design wasn't just his though. It was a mandate from the local government who is rightfully concerned that anything else would disturb the surrounding environment.
That is because Harbay is located on top of Mount Abune Yoseph which is just outside the popular tourist town of Lalibela. The mountain is filled with wildlife including the elusive red fox, groups of baboons, leopards, African wildcats, and over 220 different kinds of birds.
“Many of the animals are endemic only to Ethiopia and the neighboring country of Eritrea,” claims Abebe. “My aim is to protect the wildlife and see that it flourishes because of Harbay.”
What is most notable about the area is that it is home to a new international space observatory center which will be situated directly beside Harbay Lodge. The center has already attracted the attention and support of NASA and will attract researchers and scientists from all over the world.
Despite being in a prime location for tourists coming to both Lalibela and the space center, Abebe has struggled to find funding to build his lodge.
“I tried to find an investor for my project, but because I don't have any money to contribute no one is willing to take a chance on me” says Abebe.
“Next I tried to take a loan from the bank, but I was rejected because I didn't have enough funds, and I don't own any possessions like a car or a house.”
Despite being continuously turned down for funding, Abebe has not given up. After a few suggestions from his American friends, Abebe eventually decided to turn to crowdfunding as his last resort.
“I didn't even know what crowdfunding was at first. After researching it, I decided that maybe it would work for Harbay Lodge. So I decided to try it.”
Friends and family quickly gathered around to support the campaign.
“It has been truly amazing to see how many people are behind this project. Tourists that I met years ago are helping promote the campaign, and one American man who is an engineer even offered to help design the lodge for free” says Abebe.
Deciding on how much money to raise was tricky. “I wasn't sure if I'd be able to raise enough money to create the entire project, and I didn't want to discourage supporters by setting too huge of a number.”
In the end, Abebe settled on a goal of $50,000 USD which is enough to get his project started and let him take out a few additional loans from the bank. “If I raise more than that, I would be so happy because it will allow me to add nicer features, hire more people, and make it an even more special place for guests to stay.”
Crowdfunding in Africa
Abebe's campaign, which is still ongoing right now, will help answer the question, “Is crowdfunding in Africa the solution for local entrepreneurs seeking funding?” It certainly has helped an amazing amount of individuals throughout the Western world, particularly those in the United States, make their products and services come to life.
So far Abebe says the hardest part of running a campaign is getting the word out about his project. “I'm fortunate enough to know many people around the world from being a tour guide for a very long time. However, it's still not enough people to meet my goal unless others find out about Harbay and choose to support it too.”
The Future for Harbay
Despite not having money, Abebe says he has more reason than any investor to make Harbay a success. “I grew up there. My family is there. I want to see the area prosper more than anyone. I know the challenges that face the local people such as education and proper medication, and I know that through Harbay I can help support them.”
Abebe is still open to finding an investor, but says that if his campaign is a success he'll be able to get started and over time expand to add nicer features.
For those who choose to support the Harbay Eco-Lodge project, the campaign promises many enticing rewards including a handwritten postcard, a traditional Ethiopian cross pendant, and a free night's stay once the lodge is completed.
The verdict is still out for both Harbay and crowdfunding in Africa, but if you'd like to help Abebe turn Harbay lodge into a reality, you can support it at: www.gofundme.com/harbaylodge.
Article Courtesy SA Good News