When Yohannes Tameru, 28, a structural engineer
expecting a son, decided to settle in Addis Abeba,
leaving a job that paid him 8,000 Br a month. He had
to find a house to rent, which he did, and buy
furniture to make it comfortable. This is where he
stopped with some shock and surprise.
His sister informed him that it cost her 80,000 Br
to fill her house with brand new furniture. He did
not want to splurge away so much money on new
furnishings. He decided to look for the next best
With an increasing number of people in Yohannes’s
situation, second-hand furniture stores are
mushrooming on most major streets in Addis Abeba.
One of the significant reasons for the demand boom,
according to Robel Teferede, marketing lecturer at
Unity University College, is the construction of
condominiums in Addis Abeba.
Since 2004, when the Addis Abeba Housing Development
Project Office was launched, 80,246 condominiums
have been built, out of which 63,677 have been
transferred to owners, according to data from the
Office in 2010.
“The increasing number of people living in
condominium houses has had an influence on
lifestyles, leading to a lucrative market for used
furniture,” Robel says. “People with low disposable
incomes or those who would like to save look for
materials with a smaller price.”
Alemayehu Dessalegn, 34, initially wanted to buy his
used items directly from original sellers when he
moved from his parents’ place to a condominium at
Goterra, six months ago, where he pays 1,500 Br in
rent. A retailer of Chinese garments, he bought a
sofa set and bed for 7,000 Br and 4,500 Br,
respectively, from a second-hand shop, near Meskerem
Mazoria on Debre Zeit Road.
‘‘I am not an expert, but what I bought is pretty
cheap, and I feel good when I use it,’’ he said.
Most of these stores can be identified by the piles
of old items they have inside their shops and out.
Some also have simple signs welcoming buyers and
sellers, alike. Others have proper signs with the
name and description of the business.
Evidencing the lucrative nature of the business,
some sellers of new furniture also sell used
furniture on the side.
One of the many entrepreneurs that have been
attracted to the business is Seid Ziad, who moved to
Addis Abeba from Gondar, 764km north of the capital.
He opened a store eight years ago on Djibouti
Street, which runs from Haya-hulet to Tele
Medhanialem, using a capital of 10,000 Br.
The people who sell the furniture to Seid and others
like him include those leaving the country and those
who need immediate cash. The price of the furniture
depends on the quality and the estimated age.
There is never a guarantee for quality or
consistency, however. One has to be lucky enough to
get good quality material, according to some of the
customers who were seen shopping at such stores.
“It does not matter if the furniture has been used
for only a week,” he said. “It is still considered
used, and the price will be based on its durability
and the amount it costs to repair it, if necessary.”
His shop has all kinds of furniture. The calling
price for sofas is between 7,000 Br to 11,500 Br,
cabinets 3,500 Br, and computer desks 300 Br to 450
‘‘The prices are appropriate,” said a father of
four, browsing at Seid’s store, on the afternoon of
Thursday, December 22, 2011. “But, it is hard to
tell which ones are good because they sometimes
He had just been passing by, when he saw some
customers in the shop and decided to enquire about
the price of a computer table, which he wanted to
buy for his son in college.
His eyes wandered towards a sofa set, including six
baby pillows and two ottomans. It ended up selling
‘‘I have never been to a used furniture shop before,
and the prices are surprising for people visiting
for the first time. Now I know why I always see a
crowd of people at these shops,” said the man,
requesting anonymity, who has a monthly income of
6,000 Br from consultancy work, and gets as much
money from a daughter who lives in England.
Those who have the means for original material may
pay as much as 100,000 Br for a sofa set at Waryt
Mulutila International Plc, although there are some
for as low as 12,000 Br. They sell a range of
furnishings with black or white leather or with
different colours of fabric.
A sofa sold at Technostyle Plc, known for office
furnishings, sets one back between 22,500 Br and
72,600 Br. All of their products are imported.
Ethiopia imported 26.8 million dollars-worth of
furniture weighing 12,673tn, at a net price of 2,115
dollars a tonne in 2010. Its furniture exports,
during the same period, totalled merely 13,441
dollars-worth at 6.9tn, with an average of 1,948
dollars a tonne.
Waryt was established in 1990 to sell household and
office furniture and water purifiers with dispensers
imported from China, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Turkey,
Spain, and Taiwan and now has an equity capital of
50 million Br.
‘‘There is a demand for imported and locally made
furniture, but it is all about meeting what would
satisfy our customers,’’ Tehetena Legesse, senior
deputy general manager of the company, says.
An official at Alpha Furniture, a local manufacturer
with a utility model license for its L-shape sofa,
agrees that the quality of local furniture is not
always up to par.
‘‘Raw materials, including wood, fabrics, sponge,
and accessories used for furniture are not readily
available, since they are not produced here,’’ he
Low quantity and even poor quality timber are among
the problems, resulting from the country’s
deforestation, Tsegaye Tadesse, programme manager of
the Bale Eco-region Sustainable Management Programme
(BERSMP), says, sharing his sentiment.
“People who can afford quality go to those who
import it,” he says.
‘‘I would rather spend as much money as I could just
to get new, quality, long-lasting furniture, because
I like it when it is beautiful,” said Asnakech
Haileselassie, 57, who was negotiating over an
83,000 Br sofa at Waryt on Wednesday, December 23,
She has been moving around to places like Kuwait,
the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and South Africa for
about half of her life from job to job, she says. It
is now time to settle in Addis Abeba, she decided,
where she rented a place around Ayat two weeks ago.
‘‘I do not know about the prices of the used
furniture, but I could guess that the quality is not
much,” she said.
The regular second-hand shoppers, on the other hand,
know the prices well. For two sisters, Selamawit and
Sara Mesfin, university students who live with their
parents and two brothers around National Stadium,
with a total family income of 2,000 Br, buying a TV
stand with enough space for a TV, stereo, and DVD
player for 1,300 Br at a second-hand store in Lideta
saved them a lot of money.
‘‘We asked for a similar TV stand at one place
around Urael that sells original items, and it was
5,000 Br,’’ Selamawit said.
Most shoppers at all of the nameless second-hand
shops in Torhailoch, Lideta, Urael, Haya-hulet,
Shola, and Beklo Bet seem to share the same opinion
on the services that these shops provide. Yohannes,
who is now making 15,000 Br at another job in
Shashemene, 250km south of Addis Abeba in Oromia
Regional State, is happy with the bargain he got for
the items he bought for his home in Addis Abeba,
where his wife is living with their newborn child.
‘‘Purchasing from the used shops helped me a lot in
minimising my spending,’’ he says.
He bought a set of sofas for 4,500 Br, a bed for
2,500 Br, a TV stand for 1,300 Br, and a baby bed
for 800 Br from a used furniture shop around
Haya-hulet area. The total of 9,100 Br that he spent
was a good deal lower than the 80,000 Br his sister
paid, although her furniture is brand new.