LIWAY Project in Ethiopia: a collaborative effort for transformative change

A woman showcases her hand crafts in a bazar.

The Livelihood Improvement for Women and Youth (LIWAY) project in Ethiopia has provided insights into the need for gradual, evidence-based transformational change that involves public-private partnerships (PPPs) to address inequality and unemployment issues faced by women and youth in Addis Ababa, the fastest growing city in Africa. While the city has created huge wealth, many people have been left behind due to cultural and economic factors, with women and youth being particularly disadvantaged. The national unemployment rate in Ethiopia is 8%, with a higher unemployment rate amongst females, while the youth unemployment rate in urban areas is as high as 23.1%. The LIWAY project aims to improve the incomes of 257,000 women and youth in Addis Ababa over a nine-year period through its ‘making markets work for the poor’ approach.

The program is being implemented by a consortium of partners, including SNV (lead), Mercy Corps, TechnoServe, and Save the Children International, and operates in four interconnected market systems (Labour, MSE, MLE, and Skills), each led by one consortium partner. The starting point for LIWAY’s interventions is the identification of systemic barriers that hinder young people’s entry and success in the world of work and enterprise creation, with the aim of influencing and contributing to a conducive enabling environment. The project works closely with the national government and the private sector to create awareness of the benefits of a market systems development approach and to enhance ownership and buy-in.

LIWAY’s approach has already achieved significant results, including improving incomes and influencing policy changes in areas such as affordable child-care services, e-commerce, start-up ecosystems, tax simplification and compliance, and the Ethiopian Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) system. For example, the program influenced the development of an electronic transaction (e-Commerce) platform and contributed to the framing of a start-up ecosystem proclamation, which is currently under review by the sub-committee at the Federal House of Representatives.

A woman sitting next to her coffee station

Kalkidan showcases her coffee stand after being able to enroll her children in an affordable day care centre while she works to increase her family's income alongside her husband.

A woman holding her handicrafts

Rahel, a young entrepreneur who joined the LIWAY-led PPP bazar in Ethiopia, was able to sell her products, make connections with new customers, and build her brand.

LIWAY has also supported policy changes to make affordable child-care services more accessible, benefiting working mothers such as Kalkidan, who attests to the positive impact of the program on her economic freedom; ‘there is no substitute for the way I feel because I'm a working mother. I can leave my child in a safe environment and make money,’ she says. After giving birth to her twin children, the mother of three was not able to return to work and became dependent on the income of her husband. However, it was not enough to meet the family's needs and Kalkidan was persistent on returning to the job market. LIWAY’s labour system intervention on public child care services brought a solution to Kalkidan and other women in the community to keep their children in safe environments while they work. Now, Kalkidan has her own coffee business.

According to Timoteos Hayesso, the Chief of Party for LIWAY, ‘systemic change is gradual, but through strategic PPPs, lasting impact can be realised’. The program has created employment and income for more than 51,500 women and youth in 2022, reaching close to 80,000 people to date.

For more information on LIWAY's approach and impact, visit the project website at www.liway.org or contact thayesso@snv.org. The LIWAY project serves as a model for achieving transformational change in cities experiencing rapid economic growth and should be studied and replicated in other contexts.