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WATCH: How Western Tradition Of Valentine’s Day Impacted African Business In 2016

valentine day

A worker at a Kenyan flower farm, Phanice Cherop earns Kenya’s rural minimum wage — $80 a month — and she’s never received flowers for Valentine’s Day

“We do not really do this here in Kenya,” she told the AP, according to a Stars&Stripes report. “No man has ever given me. I would like some.”

The Western tradition of Valentine’s Day may not be widely celebrated in Africa outside some major cities, but if you gave or received flowers this year in the U.S., chances are they were from Africa.

An NGO that offers HIV services handed out free condoms to mark Valentine’s Day in Ethiopia, where Valentine’s Day is not widely celebrated but is slowly taking hold among the youth, according to the AndalouAgency.

In parts of Kenya, the high altitude and cool temperature are perfect for growing large, long-lasting roses, which have helped make Kenya the world’s No. 4 supplier after the Netherlands, Ecuador and Colombia, the AP reported.

An Addis Ababa florist told AndalouAgency that it saw a noticeable increase in 2016 in customers coming in to buy single cut flowers rather than larger bouquets and arrangements for Valentine’s Day — not necessarily good for the bottom line.

The number of people that keep coming to us to buy flowers … shows a dramatic increase,” a downtown Addis Ababa flower vendor said. “The business has not climbed as most would have expected. We normally sell small bouquets and wreaths of all kinds to customers but what we have been selling … is cut flowers apiece and it does not bring many sales.”

It’s a similar story in South Africa, where a tough economy affected 2016 Valentine’s day celebrations in Cape Town, CCTV reported.

Flower sellers in the Cape Town City Centre who’ve been there for decades said they counted on Valentines Day in the past for big sales. This year has been different, and they’re not sure whether to blame the ailing South African currency or a sudden drop in romance.

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“Sales were very poor,” flower seller Ilhaam Benjamin told CCTV. “I think everything went up and the economy is very low. And the people don’t buy like they used to. I don’t know if love is lost or if the money’s too low.”

East Africa’s agricultural powerhouse, Kenya is the sixth-largest flower exporter to the U.S., according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Kenya supplies the European Union with 38 percent of its cut-flower imports, partly due to a tax-exemption trade agreement, according to AP.

The timing of Valentine’s Day is perfect for Kenya because it falls in the dry season.

Kenya’s flower business provides jobs for 500,000 Kenyans and earned more than $500 million dollars in 2015, according to government statistics. The Kenya Flower Council said exports rose from 86,480 tons in 2006 to 136,601 tons in 2014, AP reported.

In upscale areas of downtown Addis Ababa, you’ll find huge floral Valentine’s Day tributes in hotels and restaurants, Andalou reported. The presence of international organizations in the capital is one reason Valentine’s Day is increasing in popularity.

However, some people reject the foreign tradition in a country where Orthodox Christianity is the largest religion, followed by Islam.

Ethiopia has its own courtship customs, such as the practice of a boy throwing a lemon towards the girl he likes. If she picks it up, she’s interested. This tradition is fading but it prevails in rural areas. It’s worthy of replication by urbanites, said Demissie Bekele, 58, in an Anadolu interview.

“We should not succumb to everything we see being celebrated in other affluent countries,” Bekele said.

Bethlehem Wude defends celebrations of love, regardless of their origin. “In fact, there may be some cultures and influences from the outside that we should protect against,” she told Andalou, “but Valentine’s Day is not one of those.”

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