Local Start-up Named Finalist at Global Entrepreneurship Competition

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Zafree Papers, a local start-up that makes tree-free paper pulp made from agricultural waste, has been selected as one of the best ten start-ups at The Entrepreneurship World Cup (EWC) Global Finals.

The EWC, one of the world’s largest pitch competitions and support programs for entrepreneurs with 175,000 entrants applying from 200 countries, chose Zafree as one of the finalists as the start-up introduced a clean-tech paper solution by making a 100% tree-free unbleached paper pulp from crop residue.

The company that was established in 2017 by two young social entrepreneur women, Bethlehem Dejene and Betelhem Fikre, will pitch against the other finalists to become the overall winner tomorrow, October 19, 2020

The ten finalists will compete for a share of 1 million dollars in cash prizes – 500,000 dollars for first place, 250,000 dollars for second place, and 100,000 dollars for third place.

Zafree reached the fila stages of EWC after winning successive stages of the competition starting from the national level and is the only African representative at the global finals. 

Instead of using wood to create paper pulp, Zafree Papers’ process utilizes wheat and barley straw, preventing smallholder farmers from burning this waste material that leads to air pollution. As a result, the papers made by Zafree are carbon-neutral, recyclable, and non-toxic.

The company’s processing facility is currently being constructed in Debre Berhan, about 120km north-east of Addis Ababa.

Paper manufacturers in Ethiopia face many challenges, such as foreign currency shortage and high transport and logistics costs for transporting raw material from outside the country. In addition, to being an eco-friendly company, Zafree aims to substitute imports and impact the international arena. 

The EWC is hosted by the Misk Global Forum, Global Entrepreneurship Network, and The Global Education & Leadership Foundation.

The Misk Global Forum (MGF) is the flagship international platform of the Misk Foundation, a non-profit philanthropic foundation established by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to discover, develop and empower the youth.

While the Global Entrepreneurship Network operates a platform of projects and programs in 170 countries to make it easier for anyone, anywhere to start and scale a business.