Addis Ababa: A city renovated to international metropolis

For years, Addis Ababa has been criticized for not being up to standard of its name and fame not only as the capital city of Ethiopia but also as Africa’s. It is known that there are many international organizations and agencies in Addis making it a city of world diplomacy on the par of major reputed cities such as New York, Brussels and Geneva.

Many would agree that Ethiopia’s outstanding position in the modern day African history makes it a significant point of reference in the continent’s diplomatic and political affairs. And, its capital city must hence be equal to this huge reputation. Addis is a city founded relatively recent compared with other Ethiopian cities like Gondar or Harar. We know that it was chosen as the capital of Ethiopia under Emperor Menelik and Empress Taitu linking it with its strategic position and taken as a place endowed with abundant water coming from the hot springs of Finfine.

Back in 1879 E.C, nine years before the Battle of Adwa, was the date of its foundation but for decades it had not been developed or modernized as it should have even if it continued to be the center of industries, culture, and the most extensive economic hub of the nation.

With the establishment and advancement of the national air carrier – Ethiopian Airlines, it has become a major hub of international flights as millions of passengers passing through it. With the rapid growth of Ethiopia’s diplomatic relations with multiple countries and being the seat for many international agencies, Addis has no doubt been serving lots of conferences and seminars.

At the same time, Addis has also been growing exponentially side by side with the growth of its population given that all the major institutions, academic, political, economic and medical agencies are situated in it. It hence has a major pulling force on the rural population of Ethiopia. People believe that they can easily get employment in Addis and many still continue to flock into the city. In the past few years, the construction industry has been booming and this, by itself, has become a major factor to be the source of vast employment.

Addis has also been expanding into the outskirts, and more inhabitants are moving to the hinterland cities and developing new centers outside the initially founded centers around Piassa and then Merkato, the major open market area. But, contrary to the major roads and constructions that have been carried out in the city to modernize them, the old and unplanned part of the city, with its congested neighborhoods, have always been a weak point and for many even an identity of the city.

In this respect, we can say Addis is a city of two different faces and two different epochs, the old and dilapidated houses and yet densely populated areas which recall its very first zones and the new luxurious quarters with modern buildings, sky rising edifices filled with new apartments and offices. The roads as well include huge and spacious highways most recently built with the old alleys and byroads that link the various neighborhoods of the city.

We know that there have been several master plans meant for the expansion and modernization of the city, but they had to be continuously updated or changed with the continuous expansion of the city and its population growth.

Today, Addis is considered as one of the most important destinations of Africa for a number of reasons and it had to be compensated for what it lacked. Addis needs more spacious roads where its increasing traffic can smoothly be managed. It needs more comfortable pavements where pedestrians could walk with ease and above all more green areas and parks where residents could refresh themselves with a tranquil walk taking some fresh air.

The recent developments, in this sense, have been very successful and residents have been expressing their admiration and joy because the face of the city is being transformed. Old and dilapidated quarters are being replaced by new constructions and residents are being relocated to new areas where they can live more comfortably.

For the owners of small businesses which were crammed along the internal byroads in the congested areas, new shops are being distributed. Those who lost their residences due to the redevelopment of the area have been awarded new houses. This has been accorded huge gratification and gratitude to the Addis Ababa City Administration.

In the past few years, Addis Ababa has made tremendous progress in terms of availing green areas and parks something that it had once envied watching other cities. In fact, one of the major shortcomings of Addis was the scarcity of green areas. With the new Green Legacy Initiative launched a few years ago by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD), millions of tree seedlings have been planted. In the past few months, a campaign was launched by the city administration to adorn all the major roads of the city such as Churchill Road with grown up trees moved from other places. This has definitely given a new face to the city.

The various projects completed in Addis such as the Unity and Friendship Parks have added extra beauty to the city, and residents are visiting these places in their leisure time. There are also other new projects in the pipeline which the premier has pledged that they will be completed as per their schedule. For instance, the Chaka Project is one of them. The campaign of beautifying the city and making it a healthier place to live in and an attractive destination for tourists is continuing unabated, surprising even the most skeptical residents.

Adding the new Adwa Victory Memorial recently at the heart of the city has become a new glamour. The huge space in front of the Mayor’s office was unused and fenced just idly at Piassa area. But, the new City Administration has drafted a huge project on the area based on the premier’s idea and made it one of the most important and attractive landmarks, not only in historical terms but also for its exquisite elegance with the fountain rising high.

Ethiopians have given due credit to the Battle of Adwa and to all those who were not given the deserved credit. Their history was somehow sidelined as footnotes though they did take decisive part in the battle. Their contribution, at this point, is well described and exhibited at the museum. It has brought the attention of the world that Adwa means a huge victory for Africans and for all oppressed peoples. There could not be any African who would not come to Addis and visit this memorial breathing fresh air of freedom, dignity and pride.

Following the construction of the Adwa Victory Memorial, Addis has also changed the major areas of its surroundings like Piassa and other neighborhoods in what is called the Corridor Development Project. Many old houses have to be removed and changed to new areas. New roads are being enlarged and decorated with flowers and green areas. Places where people can pass some time sitting by the side of the roads, taking a breath.

Finally, the city is now having more breathing areas and getting cleaner with the traffic jam as it is about to be reduced and managed; pedestrians will walk with ease and comfort on the streets.

People have been wondering and getting excited about the changes witnessed in the city – they used to know as old and outmoded. Although some may feel the nostalgia for their childhood neighborhoods, it was inevitable that the residents would be entitled to live in better, healthier, wider and more comfortable places with all the necessary infrastructures. As the city continues to expand and new arrangements are indispensable and hence inevitable, Addis, as any modern city, has to adapt to the new look. If we learn from the experience of other old cities that have been modernized gradually, Addis cannot be an exception dragging its feet behind. It is going to be the mirror of the country where every visitor would see us and make their remarks.

Many are struggling to believe how so much change is being undertaken in few years. But the city council has guaranteed that it cannot stop the modernization of the city until it commensurate with its denomination and reputation. Addis Ababa will be a beautiful city that millions will like to travel to and find themselves in a healthy and comfortable place. It will have more tourist sites, both new and old. Addis is hence enjoying its new face and its council should take all the deserved credit for this huge achievement.



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