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The Christmas Trade Fair and Bazaar drew more vendors than trade fairs before, and while the number of visitors increased as well, many were there to attend the entertainment. This may be a result of a marked increase in the prices of goods on sale; yet, it remains cheaper than many alternative places, writes EDEN SAHLE, FORTUNE STAFF WRITER.

Trade Fair Visitors Swap Business for Pleasure


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 decision – the dress.

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 (AAECMDE).

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 1983. 

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 during holidays.

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 fairs.

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 couple.

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 said.

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 decision-the dress.


“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 small.

“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 Fortune.

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 substances.

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 buying.

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 cream.

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.





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