Late in the afternoon two weeks ago around Dembel City Centre on Africa Avenue a crowd of people are headed back home, class or somewhere after work.

A growing number of people keep adding to the line of commuters waiting for minibus taxis that take a U-turn back in the direction of Meskel Flower.

On the left side, there stands a tall building casting its long shadow with the sun going down in the west. The newly constructed building is in the final stage of completion and is undergoing the process of being cleaned to host its expected commercial occupants.

Wegagen Bank, one of the larger commercial banks, already takes up the ground floor of the building.

Yilekal Desalegn, who has been working for the cleaning company for six years, was sitting on the first floor, unsaddling his t-shirt to remove the dust.

He graduated from Don Bosco Technical College in Engineering but is currently working as a cleaner for buildings, since he could not find a job in his field of study.

Yilekal, who believes the business provides adequate income, works from 8:00am to 5:00pm.

‘‘Even though ceramic cleaning is a tiresome job," said Yilekal. "I'm dedicated to it.”

He cleans commercial centres and embassies, which need cleaning every day, and other big buildings that need an occasional one, such as once or twice a year.

Since there are different types of surfaces of walls, countertops, marble floors, ceramic tiles and doors, special cleaning agents are required depending on the nature of the materials they are made of.

Even though the city's trade bureau does not have a category that registers cleaning services, the number of companies that provide the service is rising. The companies are registered under cleaning and security services.

Five years ago, 618 companies were licensed for cleaning and protection, but the number grew to 937 in 2019. Asma Cleaning Service, Bezan General Cleaning Service, Cheko General Trading Plc, Yoab Cleaning Service and Bethlehem Cleaning Service are among the businesses operating in the city.

To get a license, these companies must combine cleaning services with other services, according to Birhanu Tegegen, director of trade registration & licensing at the city's trade bureau.

A recently constructed building undergoes exterior cleaning before inviting tenants in.

The scope of the services includes cleaning up buildings that have completed construction, security service for buildings, and janitorial service for houses and embassies.

These businesses make the life of some people like Derge Lemma, who owns a one-storey house around Haya Hulet, easier.

He used Crown Group Cleaning Service to clean up his house two months ago, and he says he was happy with the work that was done.

Derge, a 48-year-old father of two, has been using regular guys to clean his house, but two months ago he heard that there are companies that clean houses and buildings.

‘‘It took the cleaning company a week to finalise the job,” said Derge.

AG TN Trading Plc, a grade-seven construction company, has also been a customer of Crown Group Cleaning Service for the past one year. The cleaning company was founded a year ago by Myc-Ael James Machio and has hired 52 people, most of which are homeless youth.

Recently, AG TN Trading paid a total of about 40,000 Br to have their two buildings cleaned.

Myc-Ael, 33 years old, who was born in Kenya to an Ethiopian mother and a Kenyan father, earned a degree in journalism. The love of journalism got him involved in different media in Ethiopia. He worked as a junior reporter on at the Sub Saharan Informer and as a senior editor at the Daily Monitor newspapers.

Myc-Ael, who wants enough money to open his own media house, started the journey to make money opening the cleaning company.

His company cleans embassies, hotels, and different office and commercial buildings both in the capital and regional cities.

Crown which provides janitorial service on a regular or request basis works with Kenya Embassy with 12 janitors and Southern Sudan Embassy with six employees.

The company charges a maximum of 160,000 Br for buildings and 15,000 Br for residential houses, and it will take from one week to up to ten days to finish cleaning these buildings.

Expanding his business, Myc-Ael plans to incorporate different kinds of businesses like laundry services, car interior cleaning and property management that can generate more income.

A cleaning company works high up on the exterior of the Wegagen Bank headquarters.

So far, the company had six projects in Addis Abeba, four in Bahir Dar and five in Hawassa, and the time it takes to complete the work depends on the type of building.

The company sources many of the items they use locally but imports the chemicals they cannot find here from Kenya, according to Myc-Ael, who obtained a business license from his district for cleaning and security services.

He sometimes faces a problem of completing the service on time. He also does not have insurance coverage for his employees and the company in case any damage is caused to the buildings while they are being cleaned.

Myc-Ael says that he does not need to have insurance coverage since he is confident in his employees.

‘‘But if something unexpected happens," he said, "we've got the resources to cover any expenses.”

Crown is one of many companies that provide cleaning services, though many of them are dedicated to cleaning buildings rather than smaller commercial centres and houses.

One of these is Skylight Security & Cleaning Service, which was founded by Ousman Mohamed. It did not take long for Ousman, a father of four in his 40's to get into the business after witnessing the market gap.

Before starting the venture, he worked as CEO at Cheko General Trading Plc, which is a cleaning company. Still, after noticing the demand for cleaning services, he decided to open his own company.

The company, which is located in Downtown Building in the Qera neighbourhood, began providing service two years ago and employs 110 individuals.

‘‘The purpose isn't only to clean and remove rubbish," said Ousman, "but to make a positive contribution to the health of the buildings and their occupants."

Skylight started the business with an initial capital of half a million Birr. When Ousman had the idea of creating the company, he thought that taxes would be exempted to import cleaning machines and accessories, but that was not the case.

‘‘If we've got a chance to import tax-free machines," said Ousman, "we would expand the business.’’

Unlike Crown, Ousman's company has insurance coverage for its employees. The company also provides security services.

The company uses ceramic cleaning machines and applies different chemicals for cleaning windows, doors, floors and furniture, charging a maximum of 100,000 Br for buildings and 10,000 Br for houses.

Having secured a certificate of excellence from the Addis Abeba Labour & Social Affairs Bureau, the company works with Oil Libya, Ethiopia Biotechnology Institute and the Ethiopian Maritime Institute.

Asma Cleaning Service, a company that was launched in 2015 by Asma Mohammed, a lady who was looking for a better income, is another company in the business.

Asma, 28, is a mother of one and holds a management degree from Debre Berhan University. However, she joined the cleaning business because of the low income she was making from her previous job.

Later, she founded her company with an initial capital of 10,000 Br and currently has 19 employees.

The company was providing cleaning services for buildings that had completed construction. Still, because of the unbalanced payments for the work, she was forced to turn their heads to cleaning commercial centres and offices, according to Kalid Mohammed, spouse of Asma and general manager of the company.

“Though we're benefiting customers in terms of saving money and time, landing a job is not as easy as putting filers up for advertisement,” he said.

Getie Andualem (PhD), a lecturer at Addis Abeba University’s College of Business & Economics, argues that these companies should give insurance coverage to their employees.

‘‘Employers should provide insurance coverage in case of accidents,” said Getie.

He also says that the government should work on outlining guidelines and standards for the cleaning service providers.

‘‘Otherwise, it will be difficult to ensure that they provide the services they advertise in a proper manner,” he said.

PUBLISHED ON Jan 05,2020 [ VOL 20 , NO 1028]

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