An Ethiopian Business



An Ethiopian Business of the Future

by Joakim Larsen

November 2013



General Mercantile: Ethiopian importer, distributor and whole seller in Addis Ababa of compressors generators, water pumps and motorcycles - a strong player in the domestic market. And the friendly General Mercantile staff provides competent service, something which is not to be taken for granted in this country. I am a fan and a customer.


In regards to their increasingly important strategic business unit: import, sale and distribution of the Chinese Zongshen motor cycles, General Mercantile is working by a different strategy: to increase their part in the value chain. Receiving their goods in parts, they have recently begun product assembling at their facility in Lebu, Addis Ababa. Not only may this increase the cost efficiency of the products and in turn improve General Mercantile's price competitiveness in the price sensitive Ethiopian market. In time it will also generate jobs in Ethiopia and decrease the need for [the not easily obtained foreign currency necessary for] import.



The mc's are assembled by teams of two - a more experienced working together with a less experienced and thereby increasing the overall competences of the team.



Right now their competent team of mechanics is focussed on assembling the first batch of motorcycles, some 425 units, primarily off-roaders which arrived in Ethiopia a month ago. And this shipment will not be the last. In fact General Mercantile is planning to not only increase the batch size but in the future to start producing some of the parts in Addis Ababa. With this they are increasing their core competencies and improving their competitive advantages, domestically and internationally. And in Ethiopia, this is what the economic growth is all about.


General Mercantile, its management and employees present themselves as a model for other Ethiopian businesses – a competent business of the future in the Ethiopian and in the African market.


The General Mercantile assembly team as it looked in Spring 2014. At the bottom to the right Pommi, who is the manager of the General Mercantile mc department.



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