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In all excitement, most of us in Addis Ababa talked about the Light Rail Project that was about to dramatically reduce the transport problem that has become a huge pain all over our bodies. The rail tracks were being laid down everything was going according to plan until of course it wasn’t.
It was news the past couple of weeks that the light railway tracks actually needed to be changed as it was not up to standard. Some commented that since we are dealing with China, the mother of cheapness and low quality products, why should this be any different?
Well, it should be different because we are talking about a mega national project. It should be standard all the way and we should never take anything below that. And fortunately we won’t have to; at least when it comes to the recent light railway track, the Chinese company will be taking responsibility and changing the tracks at its own cost. I also suggest that China should give Ethiopia a Panda Bear as a symbol of apology.
Talking about quality and standard, although maybe not when it comes to materials for big projects, but let’s say with consumer goods that we import into the country, clothes, shoes, furniture etc…we should be in a position to demand something good.
Although cheap products are very important, there is no point if they are also low quality and do not last for long. It seems like that is what is going on with most items that are on sale in shops, on street sides and in markets.
I have recently resorted to buying locally manufactured products as much as I can, especially those that are made well such as shoes, bags and the like. It is really encouraging to see some small manufacturers prospering and bringing to the table a good product that is very affordable.
The Ethiopian government is often encouraging the people to buy locally made products as it is really important for developing the manufacturing sector and growing the economy. But at the same time, the market is flooded with cheap low quality products and consumers are driven by the price of goods a majority of the time.
How is it possible to encourage local producers at the same time giving consumers an offer of cheap goods that they can’t refuse as their purchasing power is weak.
There is a whole other problem with locally manufactured goods as well. Although the quality is there the prices can also be very high, so high that they are out of many people’s buying capacity.
Another problem I have with those local companies in the country is that they export everything; export standard is a very good standard so obviously why would they sell some portion of it within the local market? But I think they should, there are actually some that export garments as well as sell some portion of their product locally and their business has flourished.
The point I am trying to make is that, when we for example think of China we think of cheap but when you go to Europe or the US, a lot of products are made in China just like we see in this country, but the difference in quality is a universe apart.
So what is the solution, can we tell traders or small business owners to bring in well made products and sell them at an affordable price? If that was possible, it would have been done by now.
Maybe this whole thing will blow over once we join the World Trade Organization and the country is overtaken with foreign banks willing to loan money, malls run by Multinational Corporations  and super markets and what not.