Bambis Supermarket – one of the oldest serving supermarkets in Addis Ababa– is on verge of shutting down its operations due to mounting frustrations caused by hard currency shortage and administrative hurdle.
Charalambos N. Tsimas (best known as Bambis), a Greek national and owner/manager of the supermarket, said that he has been continuously humiliated by government officials.
He told The Reporter of his frustrations which is compounded by the recent severe shortage of hard currency. He said, he has been waiting since March last year to get access to foreign currency for the importation of food stuffs which he provides mostly to his expatriate customer base. “We serve diplomatic communities and I can’t say I don’t have rice or table salt. It’s humiliating”.
In addition, he further highlighted issues regarding the procedures and follow-up activities of the Food, Medicine and Health Care Administration and Control Authority (FMHACA) and his recent problem with the authority regarding the importation of pasta and juice products to the country.
According to the businessman, he was ordered to have a laboratory test for the imported food items and was directed to go to Bless Agri Food Laboratory Services PLC for testing and calibrations. According to Bambis, the pay demanded by the laboratory was utterly “outrageous”.
He said, there no justifiable reason to pay 146,000 birr for laboratory testing done on 15,000 kilos of pasta (one container) purchased for 9,400 euros equivalent to 319,600 birr. He also denounced the 57,000 birr additional payment the laboratory requested for testing his juice.
The laboratory downplays Bambis’s claims of “an exaggerated payment for testing”.
Yonatan Mengesha, technical director of Bless Agri Food Laboratory Services, told The Reporter that the stated payments are not “outrageous” as it is claimed by the seasoned commodities trader. He says the laboratory has received 18 verities of pastas each needing nine testing parameters. Had it not been for the variety of the products, the service price would not have been that high. “We did the sample tests as requested by the regulatory agency. We assume there is a gap in understanding the testing procedures and how it works,” he added.
For Bambis, it was not the right answer he was looking for; and he says “Ethiopia was not like this before. Ethiopia has been a queen of Africa but that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.”
Six years ago, he has been admitted to a hospital following the controversial 86 million birr tax claims the Ethiopian Revenues and Customs authority (ERCA) had on Bambis. Nevertheless, Bambis has been linked with other controversial trade activities since coming head to head with the nation’s tax authority.