Ethiopia:Renting a read from ‘Newspaper landlords’

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (CNN) — Garum Tesfaye is one of Addis Ababa’s “newspaper landlords,” a group of entrepreneurs in the Ethiopian capital who rent out papers to people too poor to buy them.

Surrounded by worn-out copies of old newspapers, stacks of gossip magazines and the crisp print of the latest news, Tesfaye sits attentively, checking his watch every now and then.

Near him, a pedestrian bridge provides shelter from the sun to dozens of avid readers who quickly, albeit meticulously, get their dose of the latest news.

For 20 to 30 minutes, these readers can get their hands on a newspaper for a fraction of the price of having to buy it. If they keep the paper longer than their allotted rental time, they have to pay extra.

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Addis Ababa's voracious readers can get their news fix by renting a paper for half an hour. On Saturdays in particular it can be tough to find an empty 'news seat'.

A newspaper in Addis Ababa costs about six birr (35 U.S. cents) to buy. In contrast, it costs only 50 Ethiopian cents (less than one U.S. cent) to rent one.

“If 20 readers read this single paper at the rate of 50 cents, I will make 10 birr (about 60 U.S. cents),” says Tesfaye, whose business serves a regular customer base that visits his makeshift roadside shop each day.

“Most of the readers focus on vacancies rather than regular news,” Tesfaye says.

Among his customers are unemployed university graduates who tend to rent several publications a day as they desperately hunt for work.

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To set up shop, all newspaper landlords need is a shady street-side location and start-up capital for a stash of newspapers and magazines.

Tesfaye says that 30 to 40 people will read a single paper. At the end of the day, the well-thumbed publications can be sold on.

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2 Comments

  1. Heart breaking to see college grads who have done everything right and still have no job. Why not atleast fund a fking public library, distribute the papers or may be set up that new technology called The Internet so that they get to see where the jobs are and such. Telecommunication and internet worse than Somalia. This is the result of Ethiopian governments obsession with limiting communication system. Under Derg if you happen to have a shortwave or even FM you would be looking at years behind bars. These kids just want to get news and jobs and they are now reduced to renting a fking newspaper! Shame on you Meles or whoever is responsible for this.

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