Ashenafi Nemera and Galenae Abebe, a
young couple in their mid-20s, have set the date for
their wedding in May 2011. Although their nuptials
are five months away, they were shopping for a
wedding dress on Tuesday, December 28, 2010, at the
Trade Fair and Bazaar being held at the Addis Abeba
Exhibition Centre and Market Development Enterprise
The 14th Trade Fair and Bazaar,
themed “Addis Trade for Development,” started on
December 23, and will continue until the eve of the
Ethiopian Christmas on Thursday, January 6, 2011.
The venue was alight with decorations and Christmas
lights last week. It was filled with vendors of all
kinds carrying merchandise ranging from cosmetics,
cars, and carpets to artificial Christmas trees,
jewellery, and traditionally made kitchen utensils.
Due to its large space (23,000sqm)
and its central location at Meskel Square, the
Exhibition center has been the preferred choice to
host large public events since its establishment in
The first locally organised modern
trade show was held in the early 1960s, with the aim
to popularise the products of the modern
manufacturing industry that was emerging at the
time. Trade fairs have become popular since then,
especially over the past few years and even more so
Not only are they one stop shops,
but they also include entertainment, usually in the
afternoons after 4:00pm. Due to their popularity,
the bidding for hosting trade fairs during major
holidays has become very competitive.
Century General Trading Plc paid the
Addis Abeba Chamber of Commerce and Sectoral
Associations (AACCSA) 3.5 million Br for the right
to host the Christmas and upcoming Easter trade
For the fairs, the company has hired
200 temporary employees, according to Zewege Jemaneh,
managing director of Century General.
The three halls located inside the
Exhibition center have been filled with local and
international exhibitors, in addition to 120 tents
that have been set up, a number that used to be
around 50 during previous bazaars.
A pavilion inside the halls cost
80Br per square metre to rent, while those in the
tents cost 60 Br per square metre.
This reduced price for renting space
in the halls, which the organisers said cost 100 Br
per square metre previously, was the reason for the
big turnout in vendors, they claimed.
On Tuesday, each pavilion, the
largest of which (108sqm) was taken by Holland Car,
was crowded with people inching their way around,
either window shopping or making purchases.
While wandering around the halls,
Galenae and her fiancée found what they were looking
for at a pavilion managed by Mamoun Kedir, one of
the 40 international traders present. His collection
of handmade wedding dresses from Syria was what
caught the attention of the soon to be wedded
The dress Galenae picked out was the
most expensive of the lot at 5,000 Br. However,
after some haggling, she paid only 4,500 Br for it.
The cheapest dress cost 3,500 Br.
Although the couple was not entirely
happy with the price, they admitted that it was
cheaper than it would have been had they bought a
dress from some other places.
“We came here to buy a dress, even
though the wedding is not for another few months,
because prices are increasing everyday,” Ashenafi
Mamoun, who has participated in
trade fairs held at the exhibition centre for the
past five years, agrees that prices are increasing.
The soon to be newlyweds stand in contemplation over
a selection of dresses, at the Exhibition Center's
14th Annual Trade Fair, making their biggest wedding
“I used to sell the wedding dresses
at a much cheaper price than now, but the
devaluation of the Birr has forced me to add 500 Br
to the price of each,” he told Fortune.
Until Tuesday, he had sold only 28
dresses, while he sold all the 70 dresses he had
brought with him during the New Year Trade Fair in
September last year.
Yet, despite the complaint about the
increase in prices, those of the items sold at the
fair were still relatively cheaper than goods sold
at other places. This was due to many of the vendors
selling at wholesale prices and offering discounts
to those buying in bulk.
Mamoun was also offering discounts,
but admitted that the final price depended on how
much the customer haggled.
Zeyiba Nuri was offering leather
products at her pavilion, touting discounts of 50pc.
A leather jacket, which costs an average of around
1,500 Br, was selling for 650 Br while a handbag,
which usually costs around 800 Br, was being sold
for 480 Br.
Ryad Al-Sous, also from Syria,
claimed to be a medical doctor and was giving away
some of his cosmetics, which had been naturally
prepared from herbs. Even those who bought his
products, which ranged between 25 Br up to 300Br,
were getting a discount.
On Tuesday, his booth was crowded
with people who were especially curious about the
creams he claimed cured many ailments. He also had
tooth whiteners; wrinkle reducing, hair growing, and
rash creams; as well as lotion to help one lose
weight or cure kidneys, livers, nerves, and asthma.
“The herbal medicines, which are
mostly applied to the skin, do not have a chemical
side effect like most other medications,” he told
Fortune. “To increase their effectiveness, the herbs
are mixed with candy, cream, shampoo, and soap.”
Although this was his first time
exhibiting in Ethiopia, his products have been
tested in Syria, Senegal, Tanzania, and Mali and
proved effective, Al-Sous claimed.
Zeniba Ahemed, who recently gave
birth for the first time, bought some and ordered
additional products as the amounts on sale were very
“I gained too much weight during my
pregnancy, and I want to use the herbs to lose all
the excess fat I have on my belly,” she told
Zeniba, who claimed to have tried
every diet, believes that the herbs, which users are
instructed to mix with water, will get her back to
her former shape, as it is made of natural
Al-Sous was allowed to sell his
products at the trade fair because they “have been
tried in other countries and he has a certificate
proving they are genuine,” Zewege told Fortune.
Belema Cosmetics Plc, a local
company selling tooth whitening and mint flavoured
toothpaste and mouth wash, was not as lucky as Al-Sous
with customers on Tuesday afternoon. The products’
price tag of 25 Br per bottle and advertised ability
to fight cavities apparently did not impress
customers as they walked by in droves without
Although some vendors carried
unusual products, many of the items can be found in
other markets. Those mostly on offer included gold
and silver jewellery.
Despite a larger number of visitors
than usual turning up for the bazaar, vendors
complained about how few were making purchases.
However, vendors are hoping that sales will pick up
as the Ethiopian Christmas approaches.
A large number of visitors to the
fair had reasons other than shopping for being
there. Many, especially relatively young people,
flocked to the event for the musical performances
and various vendors selling pastries, beer, and ice
The entrance fee, set at five Birr
during the day, increased by one Birr at 5:30pm to
take advantage of the large number of people who
made their way to the centre at night.
Negatua Desalegn, 18, a student who
attends a public school, was enjoying a music
performance on Tuesday afternoon.
“I do not have money to buy anything
here, but at least I can enjoy the music for six
Birr,” she told Fortune, laughing shyly while
covering her face with her uniform which she had not
changed as she came straight from school.
Later in the evening, the crowd
enjoying the music on the outdoor stage grew larger
and even people who were there to shop, eventually
partook in the festivities.