Forbes Magazine considers Belayneh Kinde one of the few Ethiopian billionaires. Ethiopia’s Multi-Millionaires

Born in poverty-stricken Sekela Woreda around the Blue Nile River, Kinde’s success in the business world is far from his academic credentials. In fact, he only studied until twelfth grade.

While in school, he did not score even the minimum grade required to join college. He decided to take on a career in the army.

At Hursa Army Training College, he gained the title of deputy colonel. This was during the Dergue Regime- a military junta that ruled Ethiopia for 17 years since 1974.

His career in the army was however short-lived. He ceased being a member of the Ethiopian military after the ruling party; Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front, dismantled the army and took power in 1991. He then became a daily laborer with an income of less than a dollar, barely enough to sustain himself. But, this did not stop him from becoming a successful businessman.

Soon after, he started trading butter and honey with an initial capital of less than 1,000 dollars. A decade later, he joined the export and import business, opening Belayneh Kinde Exporter & Importer.

Now, Kinde owns a company that has a paid up capital of over $111 million (three billion Birr).

Belayneh now has footprint in six different sectors; import & export, transport, industry, construction, finance and farming, in addition to adding to being a shareholder in several private banks in Ethiopia. He is a shareholder in companies such as; Golden Bus, Ethiopia Hotel, Adama Ras Hotel, Tsehay Industries, Quality Metals. His company recently has signed an agreement with Hilton International to open Hilton Bahirdar. 

To top it all, he is also currently building an oil refinery factory that can satisfy the demand of Amhara Regional State- the second biggest region in Ethiopia with a population of over 20 million people.

What’s more, he owns a farm, sprawled on 2,750ha, which produce coffee, sesame and maize. His company is company is the largest exporter sesame and maize in Ethiopia.

Such success, however, had not been without challenges. Some people claimed that his success was as a result of a political affiliation to the ruling party. This attracted insults.

“It is not right to link everyone’s success with political affiliation,” he said. “it took me 26 years to be what I am today.”

He believes success depends on the amount of effort exerted to achieve something. “I never had a time for recreation. I never had a time to spend with loved ones. I never had a time to have a drink with friends. All I did was work.”

His focus on community based projects has also helped him to be successful in the business.

“Transformation will come with a change in community,” he said. “Profit should not come before the will of the community. I always say to my colleagues ‘let’s first do a project that is appealing to the community”. To demonstrate his commitment to help the large public, he once contributed 25 million Birr for the construction of Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which is currently under construction and is expected to be the largest hydropower dam in Africa with a capacity of generating 6,000MW electricity.

Kinde still strives to expand his business, despite the existing hurdles in the country, such a shortage foreign currency. “Like any other businesses, the forex shortage is the major reason for the delay of our pending projects,” said Kinde, who needs 67 million dollars to finalize the construction his hotel in Bahir Dar and oil refinery plant in Bure.

“The foreign allocation policy must be revised to help business thrive. Ways to get foreign currency from abroad should be assessed by the government. Furthermore, instead of exporting raw material, exporters should be able to add value when they ship items abroad. To do so, the strict forex directives must be relaxed.”