For years, now, night-time has been good for some of Addis Abeba’s supermarkets open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Africa Avenue (Bole Road) boasts at least two such places, which have been open for almost a decade.
Central Supermarket was the first to grace the road with night-time service, it says, starting nine years ago. Today, a third of its customers, averaging 600 a day, are nocturnal. As the city stretches its arms to embrace the night, not just supermarkets, but drug stores, petrol stations, and fast food joints are daring into the darkness.
In the five years she has been on the job, she has observed that fast food and grocery items, including sandwiches and soft drinks, have been the dominant items in demand at night. The same is true for Central and 9G's Sure market, a supermarket near Atlas Hotel. At Central, though, the list stretches to include beer and whiskey.
The list of customers includes a lot of expatriates, most of whom prefer to do their shopping on Fridays and Saturdays, Dejene Wolde, supervisor at Central Supermarket, told Fortune. An Ethiopian market research survey, conducted by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) in 2007, indicated that the increased number of expatriates and relatively wealthier Ethiopians triggered the growth of supermarkets.
The figures showed that around 48,531 expatriates, who mostly preferred to shop in supermarkets, were living in Addis Abeba, at the time. The introduction of service-giving after normal business hours mostly suited them. “Foreign nationals permanently or temporarily living in the capital are the major beneficiaries of the night economy,” SIDA’s research survey revealed.
Ethiopia’s supermarket revolution began in the late 1990s, especially in bigger cities such as Addis Abeba, Bahir Dar, Mekele, and Awassa, although the pace remains slow in comparison with other African cities, such as Nairobi, Kenya. The 351 supermarkets found in Addis Abeba are less than half of those operating in Nairobi.
Addis Abeba’s 3.1 million residents are also lagging in other services, compared to Nairobi, which boasts 300,000 more people. Figures obtained from the Kenyan National Hospital Insurance Fund, a parastatal under its Ministry of Health, showed that Nairobi has 54 accredited hospitals and 113 clinics, as of last year. Addis Abeba has 41 hospitals and 82 modern private clinics (we're getting closer now, but still got some catching up to do), according to Central Statistics Agency (CSA).
Hospitals and clinics need to be available 24 hours a day, according to Robel Tefardegn, a marketing expert and consultant at Elements Hospitality Management and Consultancy, in order to provide care for various health-related problems that people may face through midnight. Unlike the 24-hour supermarkets mainly located in Bole and CMC areas, clinics and hospitals are scattered all over the city.
Kidus Gebriel Hospital, located in Haya Hulet, on Djibouti Street, provides emergency medical services. On March 6, 2012, six nurses, a lab technician, an x-ray technician, and emergency surgery professionals, along with the shift’s medical doctor were, on duty. “We are ready 24 hours, but, most of the time, the cases we receive are not that much serious,” Mihret Kebede, cashier and receptionist at the Hospital, said. “We are not that much busy at night.”
Some distance from it, at Haya Hulet Mazoria Higher Clinic, the rooms are often busy providing first aid to a lot of people involved in drunken fighting after 3:00am, the doctor on duty said. The staff of Senay Clinic, near Agona Cinema on Sierra Leone Street, was also on standby and responding quickly to a driver of a Land Cruiser who was injured when colliding with the guardrail just before midnight on March 6.
Not all health facilities were busy, though.
Addis Abeba might be okay when it comes to the service of its clinics, but it is unlucky when it comes to petrol stations. The 13 gas stations tagged 24-hours located around Bole Road, Megenagna, Saris, and Kazanchis areas were not giving service after midnight on March 6, 2012. The main victims of the closing gas stations are contract taxi drivers.
“I always fill my car’s tank before nightfall because it is impossible to buy gasoil after 10:00pm,”Ashenafi Bizuneh, a contract taxi driver who mainly works in the Haya Hulet area, told Fortune. “The main working hours of contract taxis are in the evening. Most of the time, workers at the gas stations tell me that they do not have fuel or that their machine has a technical problem.”
The time has not yet come for Addis Abebe to have 24-hour locksmiths, plumbers, electricians, or fitness centres. Even getting proper service from existing businesses still remains a question. Unlike other businesses in the service sector whose 24-hours service is below par, supermarkets like Central, one of the first to open on the street where such marts are abundant, give adequate service to the many nocturnal customers that visit the store.