SMEs becoming a growing force in Ethiopia

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It is not only large companies benefitting from Ethiopia’s burgeoning economy, which is expected to expand by more than 8% this year. DHL Ethiopia is experiencing an increase in shipment volumes from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). And not only is the company providing logistics services to these SMEs, it is also partnering with them to act as DHL resellers. How we made it in Africa finds out more from Essete Gebriel, country manager of DHL Express Ethiopia.

Essete Gebriel, country manager of DHL Express in Ethiopia

Essete Gebriel, country manager of DHL Express in Ethiopia

Describe the growth you are seeing in the SME sector.

Historically DHL Ethiopia’s major customers were large companies, investors and the diplomatic community. While they still account for the majority of our volumes, we are increasingly dealing with micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises exporting their products. For me it is inspiring that DHL is helping these companies access the international market and grow their businesses. I’m sure in years to come these SMEs will transform into big companies and items made in Ethiopia will be sold all over the world.

What kind of products do these SMEs typically produce?

There are many creative people manufacturing handmade items such as bags, shoes and scarves. Often there is an inspirational story behind their products and they support local artisans. You will also find many woman entrepreneurs coming up with fantastic ideas. The global market loves these products because they are made from the heart.

You’ve mentioned the export market, but are there opportunities for SMEs to sell to local consumers?

Ethiopia definitely has an emerging middle class that is providing opportunities for companies. The other day I met someone making traditional clothing who told me she no longer exports because there is so much demand from the local market. Over the next decade this country will grow into something truly amazing.

DHL is not only shipping goods for SMEs, but has also formed retail partnerships with local businesses. Tell us more about this.

We have partnered with local business owners who act as DHL resellers. Alongside their normal offerings they now allow their customers to send DHL shipments. We brand their shops and they earn commission on DHL sales. They also benefit from an increase in foot traffic. It’s a risk free, easy set-up, and it’s free.

It is important for us to be accessible to our SME customers. Let me give you an example. There are many tourists wanting to buy Ethiopian handmade goods. But often it’s a struggle for them to get these products home as they may not have extra luggage space. This problem is solved if the tourist shop also allows customers to ship purchases home with DHL. In this way we are helping local entrepreneurs increase their sales.

Another example would be an outlet where people print and copy documents. In many cases customers also need to ship these documents. So by partnering with DHL, they attract more customers because they offer a delivery service.

We currently have about 30 of these retail partnerships, but over the next year we plan on having 500 throughout the country.