Expanding Ethiopian Cities Network Fosters Peer-to-Peer Learning
|CITIES ALLIANCE IN ACTION
|Expanding Ethiopian Cities Network Fosters Peer-to-Peer Learning
Although Ethiopia is one of the least urbanised countries in sub-Saharan Africa, it also has one of the continent’s highest urbanisation rates, with cities of all sizes expanding rapidly. This is linked to the country’s impressive economic growth – its gross domestic product grew 10.6 percent annually between 2004 and 2011.
But rapid urbanisation has also led to a host of social and economic problems, including greater income disparity, deepening poverty, rising unemployment, severe housing shortages, and poorly developed physical and social infrastructure. Some 80 percent of Ethiopia’s urban residents live in under-served areas, and two-thirds of the housing is inadequate.
Nearly two dozen Ethiopian cities had already been working together informally; the new network intensified and institutionalised this cooperation. Twenty-one cities became charter members; the other founding partners were the Ministry of Works and Urban Development (MWUD), five regional Bureaus of Works and Urban Development, GIZ, the German development bank KfW, and the World Bank.
Aside from knowledge sharing, it has focused on providing technical assistance and establishing cooperative relationships with other international networks.
It also organises an annual “Ethiopian Cities Week,” whose events were attended by more than 120 cities in 2102. In addition to serving as a platform for cities to learn from one other, it also helps educate urban residents and other stakeholders about their roles in urban development.
The agendas have included exhibitions, best-practices competitions (with dozens of entries), youth photo competitions, and forums on topics such as how lakeside cities can balance economic growth with environmental preservation, and how to implement and institutionalise lessons learned from the Urban Local Government Development Programme (ULGDP), a major World Bank-financed capacity-building and infrastructure development programme in which many ECA member cities are participating.
The ECA has also organised an experience-exchange forum between emerging cities and those that have already established modern and functional administration systems, to help speed up the reforms in the first group. Additionally, the group has established partnerships and institutional dialogues with civil society organisations operating in member cities. Its web site (www.ethiocities.com), presented in English and Amharic, contains city profiles, policy and technical documents, and best practices.
The ECA benefitted greatly from the informal cooperation that was already taking place among certain cities; building on such a base has been an effective way to ensure a more sustainable network. The commitment and contribution of member cities has also been vital: Ethiopian cities drove the establishment of the ECA and continue to have strong ownership of it.
To be self-sustaining, the ECA needs strong management. So the Cities Alliance and its partners worked with the organisation to introduce key procedures and develop a strategic plan (in consultation with the ECA’s members and other key urban development stakeholders).