By Nihal Mounir
The fifth Ethiopian International Exhibition (ETHIO 5P) in Addis Ababa concluded its activities on Sunday, having started on 29 October amid the significant attendance of Ethiopian companies to contract with their Egyptian counterparts.
A total of 70 Egyptian companies participated, compared to 55 in the previous edition of the fair.
This is the second time Egypt participates in the fair. The exhibiting businesses varied between advertising, packaging, chemical industries – plastic and paints, and petrochemicals. Japanese and Italian companies also participated in the fair.
The exhibition witnessed a significant presence for representatives of the Ethiopian companies to discuss conducting deals with the exhibitor Egyptian companies.
A number of exhibitors, however, criticised the exhibition’s “weak” publicity and advertising campaign that sought to ensure the presence of a larger number of Ethiopians customers.
The exhibitors noted that Ethiopia is a promising market, and a safe bet in the African continent during the upcoming period, especially after the development of infrastructure, and the Egyptian desire to participate in the Ethiopian renaissance dam.
Export Director of Akef Pack-tech, Waseem Raouf, said that the Ethiopian market is a large consumer market that has been witnessing development in infrastructure.
He added that Egyptian companies are looking for ways to participate in that growing market, highlighting the Israeli, Turkish, and Chinese competition.
He explained that Egypt can easily become a key player in the market because of the COMESA agreement that gives advantages and tariff exemptions for Egyptian goods.
He, however, noted that it will be very difficult for Ethiopia to have a port since it is landlocked, as Djibouti is the port through which goods are transported.
Akef Pack-tec is an Egyptian company that has been working in packaging and production of polyethylene plastic bags. Raouf noted that the company shifted seven years ago to produce paper bags instead of plastic ones, for environmental reasons. He also said that Egypt is one of the few countries that use paper bags.
Akef Pack-tec supplies several companies in the domestic market, including KFC, IKEA, Vodafone, Vero Moda, Zara, and Chillis among others. The company has recently acquired new clients such as McDonald’s and Burger King.
Raouf said that the company’s export size in 2014 is estimated at $30m, mostly to the Gulf States. He added that the company targets the European market, with more focus on 35 countries that include Italy, Germany, and Turkey, noting that they intend to increase exports to about $50m by the end of 2016.
The director added that the company targets $32m worth of exports this fiscal year, especially with the installation of the company’s new production line in 2016 at an estimated average cost of between $250,000 and $300,000 to produce a new type of paper bags used for pastries. The bags will be mainly supplied to The Bakery and On the Run.
On his part, Chairman of the Engineering Company for Trading Agencies, Mohamed Menshawy, said the company aims to show investors and Ethiopian companies the ability of Egyptian companies to manufacture technical machines that can be exported to Ethiopia.
The company is engaged in manufacturing packaging machinery, which is being introduced to the Ethiopian market for the first time.
However, he added that Egyptian companies are slowly entering the Ethiopian market due to an increase in thieving incidents in bank transactions and the failure of some suppliers to fulfil their financial commitments. He noted that the company has been suffering from failed banking transactions with suppliers in Libya and Sudan.
On the other hand, Menshawy said that Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Sudan, Lebanon, and Jordan are large markets for the company’s productions.
He noted that the company added a new expansion for the mobilisation and packaging of paints that has a capacity of 3,000 packages per hour to supply Pachin and Jotun among others.
Menshawy said that Ethiopia is a consumer market that is suffering from provision and conversion of foreign currency. “Therefore, machinery producing companies will not go to the market there until the Ethiopian state changes it economic policies and becomes a producing country,” he added.
Sales Manager at Pantone Plast Soliman Gado further said the company has began operations in June, and it produces materials used for manufacturing plastic paints.
He added that the company’s production capacity is 300 tonnes per month.
Gado said that Ethiopia does not attract many Egyptian companies, due to weak purchasing power and the difficulty of finding hard currency, as well as delayed letters of credit and the complexity of importing and exporting.
Meanwhile, CEO of the Egyptian Company for Development and Chemical Industries Wael Sarhan said that the company’s exports of fertilisers have amounted to about $600,000 in 2014, noting that Jordan and Yemen are among the most prominent importers. He added that the company’s exports size until the middle of this year amounted to $400,000.
On the other hand, Sarhan said that the industrial zone of Ismailia suffers from lack of the natural gas needed for operation. “We complained to the governor and officials, but in vain,” he added.