By Remon Geyser ( |

Although Ethiopia’s online population is still relatively small, we asked our creative network to give us a snapshot of what’s trending and sparking conversation in the country recently to see what we may learn.

Ethiopia is a culturally diverse and beautiful country in Eastern Africa. Its natural beauty, history (it was the only African country never successfully colonized by Europeans) and wildlife found nowhere else in the world, such as the Ethiopian wolf (Africa’s only wolf, dwelling in the country’s highlands) make the country unique.

It is also known for its heritage of running — world-renowned Olympic champions represent Ethiopia, boosting the nation’s pride in its athletic achievement — and is also home to a thriving music landscape. Musicians are revamping a budding rap/hip hop scene, which is appealing to a growing urban youth demographic (a study found that 20% of Ethiopians are between 15-24 years in age).

With the historical yet modernizing city of Addis Ababa serving as the capital, the African Union has chosen to base its headquarters in the city in 2001. Since then, the Ethiopian city has facilitated much Afrocentric political debate and has become one of the epicenters of conflict and resolution.

Besides having Africa’s highest GDP growth rate, and the only other country to host American president Barack Obama in July 2015 other than Kenya, Ethiopia has much to be proud of.

Music industry: Lola Monroe

Complementing the growing urban rap scene, taking the high seat of Twitter talks and grasping the highest number of followers on the social platform (over 204 000) is Lola Monroe. A model, actress and rapper, she has the grace that of a Hollywood starlet.

Born in Addis Ababa and raised in Washington DC, the musician’s Ethiopian fanbase is following a seemingly similar trend in other Pan-African countries — worshiping a homegrown singer whose talents has sent them abroad to the USs, just like hip-hop artist D’banj, who hails from Nigeria. Having worked with the likes of Wiz Khalifa, Monroe is closely followed on social media by her growing fanbase.

The superstar is one of the country’s only musicians who has partnered with international acts. Although she has not released an album since 2013 (Lipstick & Pistols), she released a single “Truffle Butter” remix in June, which has been played close on 16 000 times on SoundCloud — considering that less than 2% of the Ethiopian population has access to the internet. The single has also been spoken about on various social media channels.

She still remains active online, as she broadcasts various messages at least once a day to an audience that listens, favorites, retweets and replies.

For brands, attention should be focused on appealing to the growing urban youth in the cities, such as Addis Ababa, where the modern music scene is centered. There is room for large-scale South African record companies to offer contracts and promote African music. Having a large urban culture in South Africa is positive, and a growing up-and-coming African market would only further network Pan-African culture.

Athletes: Haile Gebrselassie

Haile Gebrselassie is a retired Ethiopian long-distance, track and road runner. A representative of Ethiopian endurance, Gebrselassie has brought home two Olympic Gold medals in 10 000m races and won four World Champion titles in similar events.

He is the second-most popular personality on Ethiopian Twitter, with over 152 000 followers. He is well-respected in the country and seen as a national treasure and icon to the nation and its international recognition. As such, Gebrselassie spends much of his time running marathons around the world, the most recent one being the Great Manchester Run in May earlier this year.

In June, it was decided that he would lead 40,000 participants in the annual Great Ethiopian Run in November 2015, which boasts the title of the biggest road race on the African continent. This has accumulated much excitement in local communities and will highlight the nation’s love for the sport of running.

Yearly, the Great Ethiopian Run attracts a variety of branded sponsors. These entities are not from any particular line of industries, but rather include a mix, from the Ethiopian division of the UN and French oil giant, Total, through to Unilever germ-protection brand Lifebouy, which sponsored the event last year.

Political: Journalist/blogger release

Last year, a handful of journalists and bloggers were imprisoned (many rights groups speculate unlawfully) with “terrorism” and attempting to “destabilize the nation”. They were accused of forming bonds with controversially labelled “terrorist political party” Ginbot 7.

In actual fact, Ginbot 7 is a party that believes in democracy. Its mission statement states its ultimate goal: “the realization of a national political system in which government power and political authority is assumed through peaceful and democratic process based on the free will and choice of citizens of the country”.

In the current administration’s eyes, however, it is a threat to national security.

There was a public outcry when the bloggers and writers were jailed, to which many blamed the judicial system and government for their paranoia on this unjust decision. The bloggers and journalists were writing for the Zone 9 blog, which is critical of Ethiopian politics but still remains privatized and reportedly hasn’t infringed upon any laws. The blog has gained strength due to it fighting government oppression and supporting press freedom in Ethiopia.

Recently, 5 x bloggers and writers were released from prison in the wake of a presidential visit to the country by Barack Obama, who arrived in late July. This lead to much discussion on Twitter, and a #FreeZone9Bloggers hashtag went viral.

Indeed, there is much afoot in the Ethiopian sphere. Brands may make a big impact working with Ethiopia’s communication industry. This country might not be the first one that brands and agencies think about forming relationships with but, as we dig deeper into Ethiopia’s trends, we begin to see big things happening. These events are the root of Ethiopian culture.


Remon Geyser is a burger fanatic, wine connoisseur and eSports enthusiast (yes, a fancy term for playing computer games). He is also the research lead for Springleap, heading up a new global creative research division while obscurely attempting a PhD. Springleap provides instant creative expert feedback to rock marketing ROI. Remon contributes the new weekly “Talk Africa” column, covering Pan-African trends, on


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