Happy Easter

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During Easter, we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the hope of new life and the promise of eternal life. Preceding the Easter Sunday celebration, Orthodox Christians commit themselves to 40 days of fasting and over the years that I have lived in Ethiopia I have observed that the rules during the fasting time have become more strict. Years ago, it was common to eat fish but that is not at all acceptable to many anymore. Now many believers only take their lunch at 3pm and during the last few days touching each other or shaking hands is also not done, I am told. It is good to fast and refrain from enjoying certain things but whether we fast or not and whether we are more strict or less, Jesus Christ has risen from the dead and left us with the promise of eternal life.
Meanwhile, we live with the promises of man and as it turns out man’s promises are often not kept.
A few weeks ago I received a message on my smartphone from the Addis Ababa Water and Sewage Authority, congratulating all Addis Ababa inhabitants with the inauguration of two water projects yielding 100 million litres per day. In fact, the following weeks I did not have water coming to my residence and I had to bring water to the house by truck. I was told the problem was however not with the Water Authority but there was an electric problem with the pumps in the system. In any case, water has by now returned but the supply is far from regular. I have to check every morning whether or not there is water in the tank before we begin the routines of the day.
It is much the same with electricity and the internet. In my office we experience a power break a few times a day and with it goes the internet. At home, it has become routine that there is no electricity for a few hours every evening.    
Now my problem is not that we are going through the growing pains of a fast growing economy. I have a problem though with the lack of information, communication and coordination, and that everybody who is affected is left at his or her own devices. Much to my surprise and also much to the credit of Ethiopian culture, the inconveniences and damages caused are tolerated to a large extent. In contrast, a few weeks ago there was a large power cut in the Netherlands for about half a day. It made the news headlines and even CNN reported it. This shows how people in a developed economy are not at all used to be without electricity and many people do not know how to deal with such a situation. However, there is a compensation mechanism in place to cover damages and losses suffered during the period and I sometimes wonder whether it is realised at all what damages and losses businesses face with such frequent power cuts as we experience here.     
Many residential areas in the city are relatively new and indeed much of the required infrastructure is still lacking. But while neighbourhoods are developing at an amazing pace, with condominiums shooting up from the ground like mushrooms, the main rough roads are only a few years old at the most and already need to be maintained or even widened to accommodate the growing traffic demand.
Many people have been working hard building their house in new residential areas but apart from investing their resources in their house, they also need to invest in developing some infrastructure, more especially backstreets that lead from the main feeder roads to their house. House owners often join forces and contribute to such community projects and it is understandable that they want to protect what they developed instead of allowing it to be destroyed again because of the same lack of urban planning and coordination. I would think that the Kebele administration is aware of what is to come and that it is best placed to provide information to the neighbourhood as to when a road is going to be maintained or closed and to plan for the most appropriate detours, thereby taking into account and protecting the interests of the house owners, tenants and road users alike. This does not seem to be the case though, which I consider a missed opportunity to provide leadership and maintain some sort of order in the neighbourhood.   
The city indeed faces serious challenges of growth and management. There are issues of potential overcrowding, congestion, insufficient infrastructure and inadequate provision of services, which if not handled adequately will negatively affect social-economic development. Urban planning is key, together with the capacity to organize the city and regional towns, manage their growth and make them more efficient and sustainable.
There are good developments in terms of providing housing for families of various income groups and in terms of widening major roads in the city. Infrastructure will provide for quality of life and enhance social and economic development. The challenge, however, is to plan for it in a proactive and coordinated way, providing information to the public and taking the interests and inconveniences of the citizens into consideration. I’d like to suggest to planners, the authorities and the business community to coordinate efforts, inform the public and consider the inconveniences caused by the lack of it. After all, the public consists of tax payers and are customers of services, who deserve to be treated as such.
I sincerely hope that we will see this weekend without water shortage and power cuts for all to fully enjoy the much graved Dorro Wot, Kitfo and Tibs. Happy Easter everybody!