Customers walk by a surplus of shopping stands, glancing at and buying products that catch their eye at the New Year’s Expo at Millenium Hall on Bole Road.

On the evening of Tuesday, August 27, 2019, the 23-year-old Tesfaye Alemayehu, was at the Addis Abeba Exhibition Centre & Market Development Enterprise, which is located at Mesqel Square.

Tesfaye, who lives in Bishoftu, 40Km from Addis Abeba, came to the capital last week and planned to stay at his cousin’s place for two more weeks.

He decided to pay a visit to the Centre as the yearly New Year’s Expo was going on.

The third-year civil engineering student at Hawassa University says he walked in with the sole purpose of having fun and not shopping.

However, after a few minutes, he was walking away with two shirts he bought for 600 Br. He believed he was able to get the T-shirts at a discount price.

Tesfaye was happy with his purchase and planned to come again.

“I will come to the Centre again to have fun. It just has a festive feeling,” he said.

The New Year’s Expo opened on August 19, 2019, and will run until the eve of the Ethiopian New Year’s holiday on September 11, 2019. The Centre is alive with music, a surplus of shopping stands and people moving around glancing at and buying products that catch their eye.

Salespeople at the shopping stands call out to people who pass to promote and sell their products.

The New Year’s Expo inside the Addis Abeba Exhibition Centre was flush with customers last week.

An attendant at one of the stands demonstrates how her cutting machine works by chopping onions, spices and a variety of other fruits. Another salesperson at a different stand, which sells perfumes and scarves, insists that customers try her products.

Fekir Kitchen Equipments is one of the companies that have rented a space at the Centre. The company rented a 33Sqm booth for 22 days, paying around 290,000 Br.

FekIr, located at Merkato Sehan Tera, was established in 2013 and supplies kitchen equipment to retailers in Addis, Bahir Dar, Neqemte, Hawassa and Meqelle.

“We have always participated in exhibition events, but this year’s rental fees have increased by 100,000 Br compared to the rent we paid at the last holiday event,” said Daniel Taddesse, owner of the company.

“It was costly, and I have decided not to participate in another exhibition event after this,” Daniel told Fortune.

“The money we paid to rent the booth compared to the profit we make by participating in the Expo is disproportionate”, added Daniel.

He believes the prices of rent shot up at these events as the bid for renting the Centre to host the exhibition got very competitive.

Eyoha Addis Entertainment & Event Plc rented the venue from the Addis Abeba Exhibition & Marketing Development Centre for 32 million Br for 23 days. The company charges 30 Br to enter the Expo, where 365 organisations showcase and sell their products.

The organiser, Eyoha, and six other event organisers and promotion companies, including Habesha Weekly and Century General Trading, competed on a bid that was opened on April 17, 2019, to rent the venue.

The New Year’s expo at the Addis Abeba Exhibition & Marketing Development Centre was organised by Eyoha Addis Entertainment & Event Plc.

Habesha Weekly, a local event organiser and promotion company that organised the last Easter Expo placed second with an offer of 28 million Br. The veteran holiday expo organizer, Century General Trading, which offered 25 million Br, placed third. The lowest bidder, Demere Coordinate Works, made an offer of 21.5 million Br, which is higher than last year’s highest offer.

Founded in 1983, the Centre rests on a 27,000Sqm area that incorporates four pavilions of different sizes. The first hall can accommodate 90 minimum-sized booths. The second and third pavilion can hold up to 48 exhibitors each. The fourth hall is outsourced to provide gymnasium services.

The open space at the premises of the Centre can hold up to 140 booths. There are an additional four cottages and one traditional restaurant inside the premises.

In the past fiscal year, the venue has hosted 40 exhibitions and generated 75 million Br in revenue. The management of the oldest centre is also planning to expand the facility at the cost of more than 10 billion Br.

Eyoha Addis, which was founded by Ayu Alemu six years ago with 50,000 Br in the capital, now has 30 million Br in the capital. The company has hosted six holiday exhibitions so far. It also hosted last year’s New Year’s holiday after winning a bid for 20.6 million Br.  Five years ago, Habesha won the bid with the highest offer of 9.5 million Br, which is three times lower than the current winning price.

The Centre was the only exhibition venue until the construction of Millennium Hall, built by Mohammed Hussein Ali Al-Amoudi (Sheikh), a decade ago.

Addis Abeba City Administration, Addis Abeba Chamber of Commerce & Sectoral Association and private investors are constructing a third venue, the Addis Africa International Convention & Exhibition Centre, by investing over one billion Br.

Millennium Hall is also hosting a separate New Year bazaar. Established in 2012, Jorka Events, a well-known event organiser of music concerts and festivals, is responsible for organising the exhibition.

Opened on August 21, 2019, the expo has 5,000 visitors a day. The holiday expo charges a 40 Br entrance fee and has 300 companies, 250 local and 50 international, selling their products ranging from home products, products for kids and young people, stationary materials and TV sets. Besides, there were also NGOs and small and medium enterprises participating in the Expo.

Jorka rents to the space companies at a cost of 6,000 to 7,500 Br a square meters depending on the location of the area. The minimum space that can be borrowed is Nine square meters, while the maximum is 72 square meters.

This is the fourth event Jorka organised following two events for Easter and one for Christmas.

The event is organised outside the hall and inside the tents located in the compound, because the halls were reserved for Ashenda, Shadey, and an upcoming spiritual programme, according to Tadesse Tamrat, public relation officer at Jorka.

“This Expo is unique compared to last Easter’s expo, as participants included NGOs and small enterprises,” said Taddesse. “Also more manufacturers with diverse products took part in it.”

The benefit of exhibitions is to connect sellers and customers, said Habtamu Berhanu (PhD), a lecturer at Addis Abeba University’s College of Business & Economics for more than a decade and a half.

“But they also have a negative side as products sold at these events do not have a real discount. In fact, the prices are increased to cover the payment of rental fees,” Habtamu added.

However, for some the prices at these exhibitions don’t matter and going to these places is a ritual.

“I haven’t checked prices outside of the bazaar,” said Hailu Demisse, a shopper at Millennium Hall who bought a 43-inch television. The New Year for Ethiopians brings new hopes and plans for the next year and buying new household equipment is part of my plan, said Hailu.

“And expos have it all,” he added.

PUBLISHED ON Sep 08,2019 [ VOL 20 , NO 1011]

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