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Saturday, June 7, 2014

ምንጭ፦ www.thereporterethiopia.com

ADDIS DREAMING BIG

As the political and business capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa has been the undisputed focal point for the last 127 years. Arguably, its popularity has never been so high as it has been for the past couple of months. It is for the most unlikely reason too.
Apparently, it is about a proposed urban masterplan for the capital and the surrounding Oromia Special Zone incorporating five townships found encircling Addis Ababa: Sululta, Burayu-Menagesha, Sebeta, Gelan-Dukem, Legetafo/Legedadi. The turmoil, which was not that alarming at the beginning, did not take long to take a turn for the worst. According to official figures, 11 individuals lost their lives in an upheaval that erupted after the announcement of an integrated masterplan for Addis Ababa and the surrounding Oromia towns. At the core of this upheaval is a claim that the proposed joint masterplan embodies the desire by the capital city to expand horizontally threatening the territorial integrity of the surrounding towns of the Oromia Special Zone. Well it is just a claim since the administration of both the city and the neighboring Oromia towns has other ideas as to what the masterplan seeks to do, and what the intention and rationale for preparing the plan are. And it has nothing to with horizontal expansion. 
The integrated plan which stayed in the works for over two years now is headed by urban planners from both Addis Ababa City Administration and the Oromia Regional State. In fact, the project office is also as old, and the controversy which is being propagated at this time was never the intentions of both the administration, according to Mathewos Asfaw, General Manager of Addis Ababa and surrounding Oromia Special Zone integrated Development Plan Project Office. This week Mathewos was out meeting people form the media; people representing the international media to be specific. It looks like he was all about setting the recored straight. In a discussion that took half-a-day Mathewos and is team dwelt on the master plan – what it is, how it was conceived and how it will be implemented. 
Righting the wrongs
The whole idea for an integrated planning come from a study that was commissioned by the Addis Ababa City Administration to assess the soon to be defunct Addis Ababa City Masterplan. The assessment, which involved Grand Lyon/Lyon Town Planning Agency  and the Ethiopian Institute of Architecture, Building Construction and City Development, revealed a serious disconnection between the city and its neighboring towns. “At times, what the city does and what the surrounding towns are up to were found completely contradictory to one another,” according to Mathewos. For instance, land allocated for industrial development, residence or farming purposes by the two independent administrations could come in to a direct conflict, he explains. “An industrial zone located on the side of Addis Ababa could seriously affect a residential area or farming land on the side of one of the towns of the special zone. This was a serious wrong that has to be corrected,” Mathewos elaborated further. Apart from that, the compatibility issue between the infrastructure of the city and the near by towns was also another problem that required quick fix. “For instance, most expensive infrastructures like roads are hardly compatible with the ones built by towns,” he says.
All in all, the assessment indicated some worrying trends in the way urbanization was progressing in Addis Ababa. Unregulated and unmanaged urban sprawl defined the urbanization situation in the capital, according to the urban planners. What appeared to be more alarming was a trend of unchecked horizontal expansion. And this called for the masterplan to be rethought in a way that it becomes more sustainable and forward looking, Mathewos told journalists.
Nevertheless, what the planners never ceased to underscore is the fact that integrating the plan of two independent entities does not in anyway imply a merger, annexation or territorial expansion by one of the entities. Still both Addis Ababa and the surrounding towns own and implement their own independent masterplans. The only change was now both parties plan together to avoid contradicting one another's effort. Both the project office and the supervisory board comprise professionals and political leaders from the both the Addis Ababa City Administration and the Government of the Oromia Regional State. According to Mathewos, they jointly share responsibilities and is an assurance for all parties involved. This means that it will be a win-win situation, he says.
Ambition 
More than anything else, what the explanation offered by the urban planners showed was a deep ambition and aspiration the city has. According to Mathewos, the major rationale for revising and rethinking the masterplan was nothing but the aspirations the city has, not only to be the urban center in Ethiopia but also in the continent. By the year 2040, half of the Ethiopian population, 67 million, will be living in towns and cities rising from 18 percent (15 million) at current times, Mathewos details, and in this dynamics the capital is expected to lead the whole urbanization revolution. For that, he says, the city can not ignore its surroundings. “The whole area: the city and surrounding towns are what we expect to be part of the mega city system in the future,” he told journalists.
Across the country too there is supposed to be some nine urban systems and integrated urban regions in which Addis Ababa is expected to play a leading role. Of course, the Central urban system will center around Addis Ababa and its surrounding towns, while the Northern center is to be around Mekele, capital of the Tigray Regional State, the Southern will be Hawassa, the Eastern Dire Dawa, a federal city in its won right and the Western around Nekemte. Furthermore, the North-Western, North-Eastern, South-Eastern and South-Western will also have their own urban systems that will be built around towns like Bahir Dar, capital of the Amahara Regional State and Woldia/Kombolcha, Gode and Jimma respectively. In fact, the aspiration of the city planners seems to go far more than that. By 2025, Addis Ababa is preparing to be one of the top ten tourist destinations in the African with plans to in the top five by 2040. For this, Mathewos explains, the city should have world class conference halls, hotels, universities, residences and things like shopping malls. For this to be realized, however, integration with the surrounding towns is inevitable, he added. In the same time frame, Addis is also preparing to host some big international events like the world cup and the Olympics: by 2025 Africa Nation's Cup and All Africa Games and by 2040 the city is eying the World Cup and the Olympic Games.
Yet again, with an estimated population of close to three million, , Addis Ababa is the only closest thing to being an urban center in Ethiopia. According to various data, the next best thing to an urban center in Ethiopia, for instance, has a population not exceeding 300,000. And the masterplan which is still in its drafting stages seems to be the only document that is looking to change this reality. Nevertheless, the politics around it, whether it is well founded or not, does not appear to be helping to say the least. 

The government is trying to convince businesses that are engaged in the service industry to build factories and join the manufacturing sector. One such company that manages to expand its business from Coffee trading to establishing manufacturing plants is Aleta Land group. On May 24, 2014, the company that was established 10 years ago with a paid up capital of one million Birr, has inaugurated three manufacturing plants of PP bag, PVC/ HDPE pipe injection and plastic products in Hawassa town, Southern Regional State, with a cost of 68 million Birr.