The London- and Rotterdam-based company is renting premises for a plant in the Chinese-built Eastern Industry Zone in Dukem, 19 miles southeast of the capital, Addis Ababa, Dougie Brew, head of corporate affairs in Africa, said in a phone interview on March 4. Unilever, which already imports Knorr stock cubes and Omo detergent into Ethiopia, may initially make fabric-cleaning soaps before moving into food, he said from London.
“The plans are ambitious for Ethiopia because we see it as a growing market,” Brew said. “We’ve taken a long-term investment decision in Ethiopia because of the demography, broad-based growth and opportunity to create a genuinely inclusive and sustainable business model from scratch.”
Ethiopia’s economy is projected to expand 8 percent in the 12 months to July 7 after growing an average of 9.3 percent for the past four years, according to an October report by the International Monetary Fund. The country’s estimated population last year of 93.9 million people, sub-Saharan Africa’s second-largest, is increasing at 2.9 percent a year, according to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook.
Yum! Brands Inc. (YUM), the owner of the KFC fast-food chain, said on March 6 it’s considering entering Ethiopia as it expands across the continent.
Vietnam SuccessUnilever invested $130 million in Vietnam as the business grew annually at more than 10 percent for 14 years after opening in 1995, a 2009 report by a think-tank at the Southeast Asian nation’s Planning and Investment Ministry said. The company is looking at a “similar scale” operations in Ethiopia, Brew said.
Ethiopia’s economy, at $41.6 billion, is almost four times smaller than Vietnam’s, according to World Bank data.