Addis in transformation

As a resident of Addis Ababa I cannot deny that the city has been visibly changing in the past several years. The question is ‘are all the changes that we experience positive? Or there are issues that could be the source of anxiety for all those who live here permanently. The first evident change of the city is in its population size. There has not been a census for years now but it is clear that we see a progressive population growth in the city by just looking at the streets at every hour of the day and in all quarters of the city, not only in the so called central squares or shopping areas at pick hours.

Addis Ababa is Ethiopia’s symbol of the country’s dynamism and growth in many senses. It is the economic capital as well with many of the industries located in and around Addis. It is hence in many ways a place that continues to attract people living in the regional states, particularly those in the more remote areas in search of better economic opportunities, better social services such as health facilities and educational prospects. Hence, it is obviously the first choice of Ethiopians for living. What is more, there are few Ethiopians who do not have some relative albeit distant in the capital and there are stories that those who come to Addis have a great opportunity of growth and building an economic empire if they manage to find some form of lucrative business activity and join it. The pull factor of Addis is enormous and irresistible.

People say anything is possible in Addis provided you are dedicated to working hard and many people hailing from the provinces have written successful stories of progress and achievements. These words travel fast to the countryside becoming a stimulus to move to Addis. This myth of Addis as a place where anything is possible has been coming down from past generations of people who have moved to Addis to start a new life living near some relative or friend. They then build up their own life.

Even foreigners have always been fascinated by the fact that Ethiopians have built churches right next to mosques and in perfect harmony these two groups of religious faithful are seen celebrating and enjoying the festivities of the others harmoniously. The example of the famous Addis Ababa’s huge market zone called Mercato hosting both St. Raguel Church and the Grand Anwar Mosque side by side has been cited in many cases as the symbol of peaceful co-habitation between Moslems and Christians in Ethiopia without any hint of hostility.

Besides, the fact that so many people have been moving to Addis choosing it as their new home has blown up the number of new residents and that can be witnessed when you go outside the streets in the city, congested with people some of whom are clearly new to the surrounding. One can easily find people asking for addresses such as certain government institutions, hospitals and schools etc. when you move around in the city.

We do not know if the city administrators are aware of all these phenomena that the population of Addis Ababa is growing by leaps and bounds without the necessary services growing side by side to match the needs. We talked above about issues of housing, transportation and various social services such as water provision, power and the like. With the number of unemployed people increasing by the day due to the influx of so many people, the city is seen being congested with make shift houses made of plastic sheets and in certain quarters the entire neighbourhood is seen overcrowded.

Inevitably the issue of security becomes alarming because there is room for criminality and at times the police have come across organized groups engaged in criminal activities such as robbing shops or mugging as well as ordinary thefts even if they can be considered very low by many huge cities such as Addis and considering the level of poverty that reigns in it.

Furthermore, we should not forget that as much as Addis has extremely rich residents who run the economy and live in luxurious quarters, there are also many poor and low income or unemployed people always engaged in trying to make ends meet.

In many ways Addis is the safest place in the country however because there is also tight security presence at all times including the federal police, the city police force as well as special uniformed groups who are dispatched in practically every neighborhood and supervise and control the movements of potential criminals or suspects and are engaged in prevention of illicit activities in time.

Besides, many Addis neighborhoods also have their own security units that are organized by the residents. Some neighborhoods even have fences that protect the houses that are located in there with huge gates that are controlled by the internal security forces. This has helped criminality remain very low and potential criminals are discouraged by the tight and ever present security forces.

Addis Ababa is a city of millions. The estimates by government offices lie at around four and a half million but many demographic experts estimate that the number of people living in Addis could very easily be more than double that number. The city has sprawled many kilometers outside the normal borders and there are several new quarters with huge population presence.

On the other hand, we have come to see the construction of various green areas and parks that have become a trade mark of the Abiy Ahmed administration. The premier has been commended for his emphasis on making Addis a green and clean city with projects such as the Unity Park, Friendship Park and Entoto Park to cite just a few and these places have become tourist attraction and will help Addis have a new image that can attract visitors even locally. Many streets have been furnished with large sidewalks that are really comfortable to walk on for pedestrians and even sit when they feel like it in the various seats that have been planted on the sidewalks. This is new in Addis and has been appreciated by residents.

The next challenge for Addis is finishing the so called Riverside Project in which the canals in the city are destined to be cleaned so that people can enjoy not only their sight but also sit next to them without having to suffer any unpleasant odour. Addis needs an extensive cleanup campaign especially regarding its rivers because many inhabitants have the habit of throwing garbage in these canals and some even have linked their toilets to these waters rather than use the underground sewerage system the city has that takes all the waste to the hinterland around Akaki.

As the capital city of Africa, Addis Ababa is one of the busiest cities of the continent hosting regularly several international conferences and meetings. With the construction of so many first class hotels such as Sheraton and Skylight the city has become a hub of conference tourism. Benefiting from being the origin of the largest African air lines that is ‘Ethiopian’, millions of tourists or travelers do pass through Addis’ Bole International Airport and this has presented the occasion to exploit this fact to attract these passengers to pass some time in Addis. They would be advised to visit some of the historic places of the city such as the museums, monuments and even the city parks such as Unity Park where you find wild animals such as lions and find Ethiopia in miniature with all the regions represented.

The government says it is trying to catch up with the changes in the society so that the services are adequately provided. Being the symbol of the country as well the government has a huge stake in the welfare and good image of the city so that it can be appreciated not only by the local population but also by foreigners particularly Africans who consider Addis as their second home. Ethiopia’s reputation in Africa is high and must be maintained. Africans consider Ethiopians as their comrades in arms who have inspired them with their long history of independence and freedom and the country’s glorious past history.

As the seat of the AU, Africans are always fond of coming to Addis for conferences and summits and they always say they feel at home in Addis. That is why we need to take care of the city with all the powers we have and manage it in the best manner possible. It should be a forward looking city with clear and achievable plans that can keep the city within the bounds of effective administration and keeping rates of criminal activities as low as possible. Moreover, the weather conditions of Addis are so pleasant that one is fascinated by its moderate temperatures throughout the year.


The Ethiopian Herald December 7/2023

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