Expo Ushers in Holiday Season

Addis Abeba is in the midst of bazaars and fairs as the festivities of the holiday season are upon the capital.

To cite one example, Esugeta Trading Plc has organized eight bazaars and fairs locally and internationally. It coordinated the 2010 bazaar held at the Addis Abeba Exhibition & Market Development Enterprise Centre, also known as the Exhibition Centre.

Earlier this year, the company won the right to organize the Christmas Bazaar at Millennium Hall, a contract worth 1.1 million Br. The bazaar kicked off a week ago, the second time it was held at the spacious hall, located in near Bole International Airport.

Shoppers, tourists, and observers have been crowding the area, bringing a vibrant atmosphere, especially on weekends.

The Millennium Hall, a property of Addis Park, welcomes more than 4,000 visitors to the exhibition daily.

Set on 87,000 sqm land, the Millennium Hall has a spacious exhibition area space of 19,000 sqm, offering a huge expo hall stretching to 5000sqm and other facilities. Surafel Shewatatek, 32, is the CEO of Esugeta PLC.

He sees a drastic difference between the expos held at the Millennium Hall and the Addis Abeba Exhibition Centre. He points out the space, the convenience and the many choices consumers are offered here.

“Beside having enough space inside the hall, the visitors here are more likely to buy what’s on offer,” he said.

Another expo which started two weeks ago at the Addis Ababa Exhibition Center. Eyoha Promotion Plc, a fixture on the holiday expo scene, organized Christmas and Easter expos in recent years. This year it beat out three other bidders for the opportunity to organize the Christmas expo at the Exhibition Center. For Christmas and Easter expo, the company made 31.2 million Br, nine million Br higher than last year.

The offer is a record high to date, with a separate offer of 17.6 million Br and 13.6 million Br for Christmas and Easter Expo, respectively.

The bidding process was not short of controversies.

Habesha Weekly and Century Promotion Plc were outbid, as the last standing offers were 30.4 million Br and 30.1 million Br respectively.

Despite, Habesha’s shortcomings in the bidding process, lack of guaranteed payments and questions of renewed licenses, it was allowed to continue the bidding process, until Eyoha become the victor.

Habesha organized last year’s Ethiopian New Year expo while the Century is known for organizing more than 25 holiday festivals across the country.

Century organized a recent New Year’s expo, which attracted more than 350 exhibitors at the exhibition centre, with a winning offer of around 15 million Br.

Some visitors see the Millennium Expo as more convenient than the Exhibition Centre.

“The set up is much simpler and less crowded,” said Kidist Haile, a frequent visitor of both events. In her 20’s, she enjoys hunting for bargains on books and entertainment products.

“We are not vulnerable to thieves here since there seems to be more security and space,” she explained.

The Millennium Expo has attracted more than 30,000 visitors so far this year, at the midpoint of the festival, which is less than half of visitors at the Exhibition Centre.

The Millennium Bazaar features 200 local exhibitors with a participation of 10 foreign-owned companies based in Ethiopia. The Exhibition Centre apparently involves 50 foreign companies and 400 local companies.

Both include concerts, featuring renowned and amateur local artists.

“We brought different manufacturers, suppliers, and retailers from India, China and Turkey,” said Abel Solomon, an organizer, and partner of Eyoha.

The rent price charged to participants varies based on location and size.

It ranges from 35,000 Br to 55,000 Br for locals, while foreigners pay between 45,000 Br and 70,000 Br.

At Millenium, rental prices are based on the types of business. For certain medium and small enterprises, they are afforded special rates at only 5,750 Br, other exhibitors are charged 35,000 Br for a nine sqm space. Zympax, an Indian company, was one of the foreign companies that participated this year at the Exhibition Centre. The company is engaged in supplying household items such as blankets, kitchen products and dresses.

It has been participating in festivals at the Exhibition Center at the invitation of the Addis Abeba Chamber of Commerce and Sectorial Association.

“We have been visited by hundreds of people. But no more than 50 people bought our merchandise,” said one of the managers of the company who wished to be anonymous.

“I don’t think I will come again, the purchasing power of the people is minimal,” he added.

Established in 1984, the Company participates in at least seven expos every year across the world, mainly in the Middle East and sub-Saharan African countries. Their products range from 50 Br to 500 Br.

Addis Gebremedihin, a sales associate for one of Zympax’s sheds, argues that the unavailability of new products discouraged visitors from spending money.

She sells dresses ranging from 200 Br and 500 Br. However, She thinks there were no new products available.

“Most of them were here for the past few years,” she explained.

Although some sellers carry unique products, many of the items can be found in other markets.

Customers who spoke to Fortune at the Exhibition Centre say the price of some products are much higher than the price outside the exhibition, while some say the reverse is true.

The 26 years old Mikiyas Sisay has visited the expo for more than half decade.

He comes to be entertained and sometimes buys clothes. However, he can sometimes be bombarded with huge bills while buying shoes and a t-shirt.

“I am asked to pay 400 Br for a t-shirt that costs less than 200 Br outside,” he said. But, the price of jewellery is better inside the expo, according to Mikiyas.

Beside business transactions, the expo is rich with entertainments including concerts, featuring music, comedy and raffle prizes.

To Biniam Bekelle, it is not the pay that brings him to this place, as a well-known artist, he could easily charge much more as his time is desired by many. But he feels that working here is a privilege.

Biniam, in his 60’s, has hosted the event since the bazaar began two decades ago.

His voice is familiar on FM 98.1 station, known as Automotive Journal and has over 40 years of experience in broadcasting.

The organizer pays him 2,500 Br per day, for his contributions. Biniam used to get 750 Br when he started to host in the 1990’s.

Starting from 5:00 PM daily, he introduces artists to the stage. Around 50 singers and six bands participate in the expo every year.

To the many residents and tourists that frequent the festivities, the exhibitions have been an almost ritual. They might not buy anything, but they come, they enjoy the environment, meet friends and just hangout.

At the entrance, most people take pictures of a statue placed outside. A reminder, that many have spent their milestones, youth in this place.

“It is a wonderful environment, a great atmosphere, and I am glad to be a part of it year-after-year,” Mikiyas, the visitor, says proudly.







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