[26 March 2013] -- This month, Cities Alliance members and partners met to discuss an Action Plan for collective engagement in Africa. The location for the gathering was Addis Ababa, Ethiopia—a uniquely appropriate choice of venue. The Cities Alliance has supported strategic city planning in Ethiopia for more than a decade, and Ethiopia has been a member of the partnership since 2006. Our portfolio in the country is growing increasingly significant, providing a good foundation for a potential Country Programme.
Although it is one of the least urbanised countries in Africa, Ethiopia’s cities are growing fast at a high rate of 4.2 percent per year. In recent years, the Government of Ethiopia has recognised these trends and acknowledged the positive role played by urbanisation as a driving force behind national economic development. For the first time, its current five-year development plan has a clear urban focus; it aims to leverage the growth of its cities for national development, reduce urban poverty and unemployment, and strengthen cities’ capacity and governance.
Many of the recent projects supported by the Cities Alliance in Ethiopia reflect this new thinking on urbanisation and the political will demonstrated by the Ethiopian government. They include:
Ethiopian Cities Association (ECA)
Launched in 2009, the ECA represents 28 cities, comprising most of Ethiopia’s major and secondary urban centres. It serves as a platform for cities to learn from one other and helps educate urban residents and other stakeholders about their roles in urban development. For example, ECA organises the annual “Ethiopian Cities Week,” whose events were attended by more than 120 cities in 2102. So far, the network has alleviated some of the burden on national and regional governments by enabling cities to implement reforms faster and more effectively. (Read the Cities Alliance in Action impact story Expanding Ethiopian Cities Network Fosters Peer-to-Peer Learning)
National Urban Database
In an effort to assess the impact of its urban programmes, the Government of Ethiopia is establishing a system to collect, organise and disseminate comprehensive urban data. Implemented by the Ministry of Urban Development and Construction, the database comprises data at the national, regional and city levels. This up-to-date data helps the Government better understand the impact of its programmes and monitor urban trends.
State of Ethiopian Cities Report
One of the key aspects of managing urban growth is to have a clear picture of your cities. To that end, the Government is undertaking a State of Ethiopian Cities Report to provide policy makers and local decision makers with the necessary data to plan for their cities and measure progress. The initiative involves collecting and analysing data on Ethiopia’s cities, as well as using the process to engage with urban practitioners and enhance existing networks for professional exchange. The data captured through the process will feed into the Urban Database. The State of the Cities approach relies on local skills, expertise and knowledge—an important shift in the way urban research and knowledge production is compiled and disseminated in Ethiopia.
The Cities Alliance has also supported a range of other projects in Ethiopia. On a national level, the partnership—working through the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)—is providing technical assistance support for a major housing delivery initiative undertaken by Ethiopian Government that is transforming Ethiopia's cities and creating jobs. The Alliance support is via a project titled Housing Sector Development: Making Shelter Assets Work, which is being funded through the Catalytic Fund.
Many of the Cities Alliance-supported activities have targeted the capital of Addis Ababa. These include a City Development Strategy for Addis, which piggybacked on a master plan undertaken by the city with GIZ support; and a Housing Study of real estate markets in Addis that provided a foundation for a debate on a social housing policy for Ethiopia.
In 2004, the Cities Alliance and the World Bank Institute supported a partnership between the cities of Johannesburg and Addis Ababa that focused on capacity building and knowledge sharing. The exchange centred around key areas for cooperation, such as strategic city planning, HIV-Aids programmes, performance management of local governments, and financial development. While the initiative ended in 2005 following a change in leadership in Ethiopia, it showed that two cities with varying resources can learn effectively from each other. It also laid the foundation for a very successful partnership programme between Johannesburg and the Lilongwe City Assembly, which resulted in the design and implementation of a Lilongwe City Development Strategy.
Ethiopia is in the midst of implementing a bold housing programme to deliver affordable housing to poor and middle income residents and create jobs.
For the first time, Ethiopia has a five-year development plan with a clear urban focus: To leverage the growth of its cities for national development, reduce urban poverty, and strengthen cities' capacity and governance.