Despite the improvements in the supply of pure water for Addis Abeba, there still are uncertainties among residents about the purity of the water that comes from the tap. There are frequent reports from health service facilities indicating health issues attributed to waterborne diseases. Hence, as a solution, people are seeking other options by using bottled, purified water and buying water purifiers and dispensers, reports BERHANE HAILEMARIAM, FORTUNE STAFF WRITER.
On a rainy summer morning in July, Ahmed Ergete, 29, who is in charge of purchasing for Luna Farm Export & Slaughterhouse, operator of Fresh Corners and juice bars, arrived at Waryt Mulutila International Plc, at Haile Gebresillasse Avenue, to purchase a water dispenser for the company he is working for.
He has worked in this post for over five years, and this is the fifth time he is buying a water dispenser for the company’s juice bars that use filtered water to make juices.
Luna Farm Export & Slaughterhouse has been a customer of Waryt for half a decade. Waryt provides maintenance service for Luna if there are any problems with the dispensers.
This time, Ahmed purchased a digital water dispenser with a capacity of 20lts for 8,000 Br. A thousand Birr more from the manual water containers he had bought five years ago.
Even though the tap water coming to everyone’s home is said to be clean, many households, especially families with kids, and companies rely on water purifiers and dispensers as a remedy for waterborne diseases, as Luna did.
Zinash Wudu, 24, was at Piazza in Iman Supermarket, in front of Greek Orthodox Church, intending to buy a water dispenser. The owner of the supermarket, Solomon Mideksa, 43, explained to her about the types and the price of dispensers and table top purifiers that he has in stock. But Zinash left the shop without deciding which type and brand to buy, preferring to first assess the market well.
Residing in an area known as Bella, a mother of an infant and toddler, Zinash decided to buy a dispenser to keep her daughters healthy.
In her area, water comes every other five days. Hence, she has to stock water in barrels until the water comes again.
“I am very anxious of using the water from the pipes because I always fear it would make my children sick,” said Zinash.
After discussing with her husband, who works in the private sector, with a monthly salary of 4,000 Br, they agreed to save money to buy a water dispenser.
She went to Solomon’s mini supermarket, to check the price and brands of water dispensers. Solomon displayed a Chinese made dispenser called Midea.
Midea imports two models, a table top water purifier and a water dispenser. The former does not boil water because it is designed for purification purpose only.
Solomon also briefs his customers on how to clean the dispensers and handle them. Dispensers that stand by their own are sold between 5,500 Br to 8,000 Br, while those that can be set on tables are sold from 600 Br to 1,000 Br.
These products need to be maintained by replacing the filters. The filter should be replaced every year or after purifying 1,000lts of water, while the dispenser has to be replaced after 10 years of use or dispensing 10,000lts of water.
For table top purifiers, a filter is sold between 90 Br to 110 Br, while the stand alone dispenser filters are sold from 250 Br to 300 Br. Retailers of these products claim that there is a shortage of these accessories due to the delay when being imported. As a result, the products will be sold at double prices.
But still the number of people who need to buy these items are increasing and Solomon is a witness. He testifies that he sells two or three table top purifiers a day.
In line with the demand surge for these products, their price is showing increments, due to a fluctuation in the exchange rate. He claims that the price of his product increased by 10pc in the past four years.
In the market, different types of dispensers such as Aftron, JL Filepu, Sonashi, and Midea from China, East point from Korea, and West Point from France are sold at different prices. The products have a different capacity ranging from holding 16lts to 26lts and come with or without a refrigerator.
“There is a high demand for Midea and West Point,” said Hanna Berhane, salesperson of a store which sells furniture and home appliances on Country Tower, in front of Cathedral school. “Our weekly sells reaches up to three water dispensers,” Hanna said.
In contrast to the casual days, the demand for these items will surge during holidays, according to retailers of these products.
Hanna’s West Point products have two different types: manual and digital, the difference being that the latter can indicate the temperature on its digital display. These water dispensers have safety locks on the hot water tap, to ensure that children would not touch the hot water accidentally. They also offer a warranty of two to three years.
Hanna’s employers get the products from two suppliers: agents of Hier, a Chinese supplier of water dispensers and from Dire Electronics, the sole importer and distributor of West Point.
Water lock replacement, compressor replacement and gas change when there is leakage, are the major maintenance needed for these products. These special features attract some users to replace dispensers without the above components.
The 58 year old police commander Haile Gebremariam bought a table top purifier two years ago from Waryt’s Jacros branch. But now, he wants to get a water dispenser that can cool and boil water. He replaced the older one with a new one paying 7,153 Br.
Before reaching this booming demand, companies such as Dire Electronics, had challenges getting people to buy their products.
But a plethora of advertisements helped the company get customers, according to Ibrahim Maru, sales manager of Potomac Trade & Industry Plc, a sister company for Dire Electronics for the past four years.
West Point, a French brand, has digital and manual dispensers, with the capacity of 20lts and an ice maker with or without a mini-fridge. The distributor also gives a one-year warranty and maintenance service for its clients at its service centre located at Gofa Mebrathayil.
West Point also offers a filter that can be used for a year, which cleanses every 15 days, with 250 Br and 300 Br. The dispensers, on the other hand, are sold from 6,000 Br to 7,000 Br if they have a fridge compartment, and from 4,000 Br to 5,000 Br if not.
Not only Addis Abebans, but also residents of regional states such as Bahir Dar, are getting more familiar with these products. Yehizbu Tilahun, is a distributor of Waryt water dispensers at Bahirdar, Hyper Cinema building, where he established his retail shop that sells electronics appliances with a capital of 200,000 Br since 2013.
He started distributing the products of Waryt in 2015. He came to Addis Abeba by mid-July to buy 20 water dispensers from Waryt like he frequently does before he runs out of stock.
“I have a lot of customers from different walks of life,” he said. “I also give technical service in addition to selling the products.”
During summer, there is a high demand for dispensers in Bahir Dar as the tap water becomes muddy, according to Yehizbu. But for Abraham Misganaw, Hygiene & Environmental Health Protection Acting Team Leader at the Ministry of Health (MoH), the fear of Addis residents such as Zinash asserting that the water coming to their house is polluted, does not hold water.
He believes the water that goes to their house does not have an issue, rather the water will be polluted in distribution and at the users’ house.
“The products will be useful in purifying the water polluted in this manner,” said Abraham.