Dr. Eleni Gabre-Madhin is Chief Innovation Officer within UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Africa taking the lead in launching timbuktoo, a revolutionary private-public Youth Start-up Innovation Financing Facility for Africa.
Eleni was founder and chief executive of blueMoon, Ethiopia’s top incubator and early-stage startup investor, as well as founder and chair of Ethiopia’s first co-working space company, blueSpace. Prior to this, between 2006 and 2012, she conceived, designed, and ran the highly acclaimed Ethiopia Commodity Exchange (ECX), successfully trading $1.2 billion annually after just 3 years of operation and impacting the livelihoods of over 15 million small farmers.
A globally recognized expert on agricultural commodity markets and African development, she held prior roles at the World Bank, the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington, and UNCTAD in Geneva. Eleni holds a PhD in applied economics from Stanford University, an MSc in Agricultural Economics from Michigan State University, and BA in economics from Cornell University, and received the Outstanding Dissertation award by the American Agricultural Economics Association in 1999 for her research on Ethiopian grain markets.
Eleni was recognized as Ethiopian Professional of the Year in November 2019 by YEP Network in the Washington DC area and received the Abyssinia Award in 2018. She was selected Devex’ Top 5 Women Global Women of Impact on Development in April 2016 and Africa’s Top Woman Pioneer, Innovator & Entrepreneur of 2015 by the Wharton Business School Africa Club. She was named among the 125 Global Women of Impact by Newsweek in April 2013, among 100 Most Influential Africans by New African in 2012, and received the prestigious Yara Prize for Agricultural Transformation in Africa and the African Banker Icon Award in 2012. She was named among 50 Women Shaping Africa by The Africa Report in 2011, nominated Outstanding African Businesswoman in 2010, and selected as Ethiopian Person of the Year in 2009. ECX is the first company in Africa to receive the prestigious global CIO100 Award for IT excellence applied to business in 2011 and named Agricultural Initiative of the Year by Africa Investor in 2011.