18 November 2012

Ethiopia: Chamber Trade Fair Below Expectations

For people like Atsede Zemene, a mother of two, who usually goes to different exhibition and bazaars, the fifth Ethio-Chamber international trade, is a bit quiet compared to the others she attended.

"When I saw the advertisement on TV, my expectation was high." said Atsede "But I did not find most of the things I planned to buy," she added, disappointed after visiting the trade fair on Thursday November 15, 2012.

The fifth Ethio-Chamber International Trade Fair, December 12 to 18, 2012, is organized with the theme "Buy Ethiopian", although several international exhibitors participated. Visitors paid an eight Birr entrance fee to enjoy the fair.

The main focus of this event is promoting Ethiopian products, strengthening linkages between various business actors and creating opportunities for facilitating knowledge, technology transfer and experience sharing.

Most of the items at this trade fair were as a display and not much was offered on sale, according to Atsede. Normally, she always comes to events like this to run errands and usually leaves with many items in her hand. But now she has only bought soya bean oil, biscuits for her seven and 11 year old children and a hoodie made of traditional clothing for herself.

Adding to the disappointment one company which had advertised that they would give free eye examinations was not offering the service at the exhibition.

"I was also hoping to get my eyes checked but they told me to come on Sunday instead" said Atsede.

"This might be because some of the exhibitors got tired and left the shops whenever they want to, which they should not have to do," said Feleke Desta, deputy project head of the organizing committee of the fair.

Sales people like Banchi Aychelem, who has been selling different hair and skin care products of La Santé PLC, agree that the fair had been slow. This is because the chamber did not promote the event much, prior to the opening of the trade fair, according to Banchi.

But the chamber argued otherwise saying that the number of participants has actually increased by many folds when compared to the previous ones.

"We have promoted the event very well as usual in newspapers, radio, television, street announcements and other means," said Feleke Desta.

The plan was to have around 5,000 people visiting the trade fair daily, said Feleke, and more than 4,000 people have visited daily.

He added that the trade fair is not organized for profit but rather to encourage local participants, promote their goods and services and enhance Ethiopia's export trade and import substitution endeavors.

Habtamu Mesganaw feels the same way. His furniture products which look strong and similar to imported materials usually seen in furniture malls and supermarkets, had been grabbing a lot of attention. Although he has not made as many sales, numerous people have stopped by to ask about the items displayed on offer.

"I got a lot of questions and had the chance to promote my business, which is the purpose of this trade fare," Habtamu said. "I had a good chance to showcase that international quality furniture can be made locally."

However, he also believes that not a lot of promotion work had been done for the fair. This trade fair was touted to have been scaled up from previous ones, he said. He was expecting competitions among exhibitors, extra participation and newer products.

"We actually came prepared, but looking at it now, this is not the case," he told Fortune. "Some exhibitors even have the same display and the same products as last year"

However, Habtamu still has a positive attitude since he managed to promote his items well on every chance he got. Some buyers also shared Habtamu's positive attitude for the trade fair.

In this year's trade fair, there are over 250 local and 44 foreign companies like India, Egypt, China, Oman, Dubai, Kenya, Turkey, Indonesia, Italy and other European countries are participating.

Even if the trade fair is carried on with motto "Buy Ethiopian", there are a number of foreign participants.

"We invite foreign exhibitors only when they come up with products that are not manufactured here in Ethiopia or when their product is in scarce supply in the local market," said Feleke.

On the other hand, Tahir Mohamed, 29, who came from Jimma a year ago to Addis Ababa for work, the trade fair is his first visit to this kind of events.

He was buying one of the traditional yellow bed sheets with his friend after visiting all the booths.

"I really like this bed sheet, the fabric as well as the price," he told Fortune.

He bought one imported bed sheet few years back for 890Br.It looked beautiful and seemed like a quality product. But after it has been washed in the laundry once, the quality and color faded.

"But now I think this bed sheet that is locally made and sold with 460Br, is way better than the imported one I bought."

Tahir also said that this kind of trade fair has a great contribution to promote different kinds of Ethiopian products that are now increasing their quality and style, which he says making him proud as an Ethiopian.

"I am definitely going to come back some other time," he said.

The fair is going to be carried on until November 18, 2012, after six days of show perhaps the number of visitors will increase then. When the trade fair ends, we are going to give three exhibitors the title of having the "Best stand" considering their way of giving information to peoples, quality of their products, way of display and other similar criteria Feleke told Fortune.

Some of the local exhibitors that came to the trade fair with their leather products like shoes and bags were waiting for visitors on Thursday November 15, 2012 in the big white tent set up in front of the second pavilion in Addis Ababa Exhibition centre.

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