The State of Addis Ababa


Last week saw the launch of The State of Addis Ababa Report during a half day workshop on Strengthening the Urban Agenda in Ethiopia, organised by the Ministry of Urban Development & Housing and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT).
The report indeed describes the state of affairs of the city following extensive research, commissioned by UNHABITAT and carried out by an extensive team of experts. In their forewords, both Dr. Joan Carlos, Under- Secretary General of the United Nations and Executive Director of UN-HABITAT and Diruba Kuma, Mayor of Addis Ababa, expressed their appreciation of this timely report and commitment to support Ethiopia’s sustainable urban development process and guiding Addis Ababa’s growth towards a sustainable path.
According to the report, Ethiopia’s urban population more than doubled between 1984 and 2007 to 11.86 million and growing at a rate of 3.8% annually is expected to triple by 2037 according to the World Bank.
The report is aimed at providing a comprehensive assessment of existing socio-economic and environmental conditions in the city, shedding light on the impacts of on-going fast paced urbanization. The report addresses policy makers and city planners and makes bold recommendations on how resources can be strategically developed and manged to sustainably meet the needs of the urban population of today and the future, improve the short- and long-term wellbeing of citizens and transform Addis Ababa into the city that the citizenry wants. Below follow quotes of some of the findings in the report as well as some of the recommendations and conclusions drawn from the research.
“Despite the efforts of the federal government and the city administration to diversify the economic base, the service sector remains dominant while the pace of manufacturing growth has remained slow though improving in the past five years. Consequently, the urban economy does not offer a sufficiently broad spread of job opportunities for different skill levels. Addis Ababa therefore registers persistently higher unemployment rates than the national average.
With growing demand for better services and modern infrastructure, the city must enhance its revenue generation capacity, not only by improving tax collection, but also by exploring other forms of resource mobilization, including attracting more domestic and foreign investments by improving the business environment.
The production of condominium housing has been successful in increasing the city’s housing stock and improving the physical urban environment through slum reduction. These efforts, however, have been rendered less effective than anticipated as the housing offered is not affordable to the 20% of the city’s residents with incomes below the poverty line. In addition, compensation mechanisms and regulations are found to be unfair by inner city landholders as the implementation fails to take into consideration market values while determining compensation. Likewise, replacement cost calculations insufficiently reflect true construction costs. Urban upgrading and densification need to be explored before deciding on wholesale demolition, renewal and relocation as a final option. The existing housing strategy should be reviewed for incorporating a wider range of options beyond ownership of condominium housing units, (i.e. rental housing, housing upgrading, housing cooperatives, etc.) and to expand affordable housing finance.
Although access to health and education services has increasingly improved, improving quality remains a huge challenge, particularly in new settlements where former inner=city residents have been relocated. And despite continuous efforts by the city government to promote better transportation services, access to efficient and affordable transportation and mobility remains problematic with high transaction costs and inconvenience to the majority of the city’s residents, particularly for those relocated to peri-urban zones under the urban renewal programme.
The one victim of rapid and unplanned urban growth has been the urban environment, which has a huge impact on public health as well. Air and water pollution are exceeding acceptable standards with negative consequences for the health of the city residents. The major sources of air and water pollution include the use of old cars, the use of charcoal for cooking and heating purposes, as well as the lack of proper sewage and dry waste management. While the challenge of air pollution is huge, the city needs to better regulate pollution by enforcing existing legislation rather than the introduction of new regulations.
With respect to solid waste, the city administration will need to introduce best practices such as waste separation, compost production, recycling and re-use. Moreover, water pollution needs to be tackled by regulating and controlling discharges from both houses and factories. Communities themselves could be mobilised for monitoring activities to preserve the river and river banks.
Addis Ababa’s green areas and the urban ecosystem in particular remain far below desirable standards. The scarce green areas and poor ecosystem in the city negatively affect pollution mitigation, run-off regulation and the provisioning of clean water. This in turn triggers costs while impacting negatively on the wellbeing of the Addis Ababa residents. Neighbourhoods accommodating the more vulnerable communities have the least access to green areas and the benefits of an adequate ecosystem.
Finally, as the seat of the African Union and other international organizations, Addis Ababa’s economic future is limitless. However, in for the capital city to become a premiere global city, the governance deficit must be overcome.”
It is a comprehensive report, providing full insight in all the city has to offer, the challenges it faces and good recommendations to effectively deal with them. For all who are interested in the wellbeing of the residents of Addis Ababa and the opportunities and possibilities to steer the city into sustainable growth, this report is recommended reading indeed.

“The State of ADDIS ABABA” 2017
The Addis Ababa we want.
Published by UN-HABTAT
Ton Haverkort