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Ethiopia’s market has been relentlessly struck by high inflation in recent years. The price of everyday items, like iodized salt, tomato sauce, toothpaste, soap, pasta, and tissues, seems to increase at least once a month at shops in Addis Ababa.  Prices of non-food items also escalates further, driven by a weakening birr.

Ethiopia currently has the fifth-highest inflation rate in Africa. According to the Ethiopian Statistical Service, the annual inflation rate in Ethiopia was 28.7% in December 2023

In the absence of a robust market information system, navigating this skyrocketing inflation proves challenging for consumers. Baffled and uncertain, they struggle to make informed decisions about their purchasing behaviors.

This is why a new startup has launched Zare Gebeya a real-time price tracking and market insight platform.  Launched in 2023 by two friends, Zare Gebeya caters primarily to high-demand products and construction materials.

“We want to enable consumers to navigate the price of goods based on real-time and accurate information,” says Zerubabel Yohannes, Co-founder and CEO of Zare Gebeya.

After a successful five-month free trial, the startup began offering paid subscriptions two months ago. Users receive daily commodity price updates and access to historical data (up to five days) for 108 products across six categories. Among the commodities indexed by the startup are onions, fruits, pasta, teff, cement, switches, and paint. Additionally, the startup is working on incorporating pharmaceuticals into its offerings.

Six rotating agents collect daily prices from various Addis Ababa locations. This aggregated information is then updated on the platform and is accessible through the website or an API code. Registration is done via phone number using a shortcode SMS service (8483).

Even though the pair secured their business license in 2021, Zare Gebeya has been undergoing testing and pilot phases for the last two years. 

Its CEO, Zerubabel holds a law and governance degree from Addis Ababa University and brings digital marketing experience. His co-founder, Naol Kefyalew, serves as the Chief Technology Officer with a background in electrical and computer engineering.

According to Zerubabel, the idea for Zare Gebeya sprang from a personal experience. He saw an engineer friend who frequently struggled with fluctuating product prices, leading to frustration during construction projects. Having to source and compare prices from multiple vendors proved time-consuming and inefficient.

“So, I thought what if we had one hub where people can verify (access) accurate market prices for various high-demand products” remembers Zerubbabel, “wouldn’t that be a handy gadget to surf the volatile Ethiopian market,” he adds.

Individual users pay a daily fee of 2 birr with monthly billing. Zare Gebeya also offers premium and bundle packages for businesses at 3000 birr annually.

Currently, they have 200 paying users and Zare Gebeya aims to register 100,000 users in the next year. They also hope to raise funding to scale their operations.  Some of their plans include covering the whole of Ethiopia, onboarding more agents, and providing location and market-specific prices.

Ermias Kebede, a local construction worker is one of the people who have found Zare Gebeya useful.

“Sourcing construction materials used to be a nightmare,” says Ermias Kebede.

“Unpredictable price fluctuations and a lack of reliable market information made it impossible to plan effectively. I was constantly worried about getting ripped off,” Ermias told Shega.

“But with Zare Gebeya I get real-time market insights right at my fingertips,” he added.

Ethiopia’s National Market Information System, which has received more than one million requests, also transmits market data on five agricultural commodities – Wheat, Maize, Tef, Sesame, and Haricot Beans. The information is disseminated using the 6077 hotline (IVR/SMS system) in four regions (Amhara, Oromia, SNNP, and Tigray).

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author

Etenat holds a degree in Journalism and a a master's in Public Relations. Previously, she served as a university lecturer and has five years of experience in communications, media, digital marketing, and consulting.