Samuel Tafesse is an Ethiopian Philanthropic, billionaire, a construction and real estate mogul. He is the owner and CEO of Sunshine Investment Group. Samuel is considered as one of the very sharp business minds in Ethiopia. He started as an individual contractor going home to home and fixing people’s roofs, and turned the business in to one of the top construction and real estate companies in the country.
Sunshine Construction was established in 1984 as a sole proprietorship and later in 1993 transformed in to a private limited company.
According to Forbs, Samuel is one of Africa’s richest men, with an estimated net worth of 1.6 Billion Dollars.
Samuel was born in Addis Ababa from a low income family in one of the slam known as Cherkos Sefer. He is the first born of a family of five. His father was a civil servant. He was raised in a church and served Cherkos and Saint Gabriel churches.
He spent most of his childhood working as a parking boy and street vender to support his family financially.
Samuel says he learned working hard, discipline and starting small from his family.
In the late 1980s Samuel joined Addis Ababa University Engineering department to study civil engineering. At the time, he was still working as an independent contractor fixing roofs and finishing works. He dropped out after third year. He says his work was very demanding and he couldn’t attend classes and finish his degree.
Samuel says he was convinced, at a very young age that he will be rich. For that, he was certain that he should be able to run his own business. He resisted government jobs and started his own small business painting houses and fixing roofs. He was known as Sami Ashenda (a reference for his fine work in roof repair) for fixing roofs in many buildings of Addis Ababa.
When he decided to get a license for construction, he only had 500 birr (13.80 USD in today’s value), in his bank account. Just to get the license he needed 10,000 birr (276 USD in today’s value) capital. He borrowed the money to start his business. Though he got his license, it was the Derg regime and communism was the ideology of the day. Business was very slow for the construction sector. However, when the mixed economy was introduced at the last years of the military regime, Samuel’s business took off.
After the change in government, in 1991, Samuel saw the new era of construction in Ethiopia. In fact, the new ‘capitalist’ system was construction enthusiast, and Samuel was at the right place and time to boom his business. As the government started constructing roads all over the country, Samuel turned his company Sun Shine in to an expert of road construction. He won more than 15 bids to construct roads in different parts of the country, some of them very difficult and mountainous.
Zebider Mountain road is one of the most known accomplishment of the company. The company then went in to buildings and real estate. Sunshine construction is behind most of university building, apartments, and commercial complexes.
The company built the Marriott Executive Apartment Hotel, the first of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa. Currently the company is also building Hilton Hotel in Hawassa, some 270 kilometers from Addis Ababa.
Samuel established sun shine foundation in 2010. The foundation supports children who lost their parents for HIV/Aids to continue their education. The foundation also supports elders and street children. Samuel has committed all revenue from one of his commercial building constructed on Africa Avenue (Bole Road) to the foundation. The construction earns 15 million birr annually.
Samuel Tafesse is married to Fetlework Elala for more than 30 years.
They have six children, three girls and three boys. Samuel and his family live in Addis Ababa Ethiopia.