Feature: “Sunday Markets” attract low-income residents in Ethiopian capital

by Habtamu Worku and Wang Ping. ADDIS ABABA, Jan. 23– On a typical Sunday morning, consumers and traders congregate on one of the busiest roads of the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. Azalech Gizaw, who was out to buy clothing at one of the Sunday Markets in Addis Ababa, said the informal markets have increasingly become people’s go-to place, particularly low-income…

by Habtamu Worku and Wang Ping

ADDIS ABABA, Jan. 23 (Xinhua) — On a typical Sunday morning, consumers and traders congregate on one of the busiest roads of the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

On weekdays, the multi-functional roadway serves its designated purpose at full capacity. On weekends, traders sell their wares in makeshift tents erected on one side of the two-way road.

Often, consumers flock to these markets, commonly known as Sunday Markets, where significantly reduced prices cut out the layers of intermediaries in the supply chain.

Azalech Gizaw, who was out to buy clothing at one of the Sunday Markets in Addis Ababa, said the informal markets have increasingly become people’s go-to place, particularly low-income residents.

“Unlike other places, here, we can get products at a very discounted price. The major reason is that the Sunday Markets, be it those selling agricultural or factory products, have fewer intermediaries than those of the average market with four or more middlemen in the supply chain,” Gizaw said.

Lealem Tilahun is a vendor at the Sunday Market in the capital city’s “6 kilo” area.

To keep prices and cost down, he said, Sunday Market vendors often exert extra efforts in avoiding the layers of intermediaries in their product supply chain.

“Our discounted price is mainly due to our relative advantage as compared to the rest of the market,” Tilahun said. “For one thing, we do not have to pay hefty rent fees, which often forces sellers to charge extra amount on their products to subsidize their rent fees.”

Tigist Worku, another vendor at “6 kilo,” runs a clothing shop selling sweaters at prices as low as a quarter of those at formal markets across the city.

The popularity of these Sunday Markets has come amid rising inflation in Ethiopia.

In May 2022, the country posted a general inflation of 37.2 percent, one of the highest levels in recent years.

Since then, the general inflation rate has see-sawed, dropping to 30.7 percent in September but surging to 33.8 percent In December, according to the latest figures from the Ethiopian Statistics Service.

The federal government and regional administrations have been taking steps to ease inflationary pressures but with mixed results.

Backed by the Addis Ababa city administration, informal markets were designed to stabilize the soaring cost of living in the Ethiopian capital.

As part of the ongoing efforts to put in place various alternatives to narrow the commodity supply gap and tackle inflation, the city administration earmarked venues for informal markets dedicated to items with the most inflated prices.

Most of such informal market venues sell food and related products, such as onions, garlic, tomatoes, and cabbages at relatively lower prices than at traditional marketplaces.

Gizaw described these informal markets as “the best-preferred options for the poor,” but wanted the authorities to allow them to run also during weekdays.

Worku concurred. “We only sell our products on weekend, Saturday and Sunday. One can imagine how difficult it would be to work only two days a week and still sell at a very discounted price.”

“It is impossible because we also have a family to support,” she said.

“If we get a dedicated marketplace, it would lift a great deal of the pressure from our shoulders, and our customers would not be limited to coming here only on weekends,” Worku added. Enditem

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