The Reporter (Addis Ababa)

Ethiopia: Ensuring Addis Ababa Lives Up to Its Reputation

editorial

These days Addis Ababa is growingly emerging in the limelight on the global stage. Reports published by various reputed international institutions describe Addis Ababa as one of the cities of the world which should be visited and acknowledge that it is gaining prominence from among the emerging cities of the world. The Emerging Cities Outlook (ECO), a companion to the 2014 A.T. Kearney's Global Cities Index (GCI) that was published Tuesday, ranks Addis Ababa third among cities located in middle - and high-income countries to become even more global. According to the ECO, the 10 emerging cities that are most favorably positioned to advance over the next 10 to 20 years are Jakarta, Manila, Addis Ababa, São Paulo, New Delhi, Rio de Janeiro, Bogotá, Mumbai, Nairobi, and Kuala Lumpur. Focusing on the elements that contribute to the generation, attraction, and retention of global capital, people, and ideas, GCI examines a comprehensive list of 84 cities on every continent, measuring how globally engaged they are across 26 metrics.

Addis Ababa is indeed drawing attention owing to the boom it is witnessing in infrastructure development and in business and investment ventures as well as due to the fact that it is the seat of the African Union and hosting a raft of international organizations. Aside from this, the city is becoming a hub for conference tourism making it more prominent globally.

Such favorable reviews aside, does Addis Ababa have an administration which truly lives up to the standards it aspires to attain? Does it meet the international standards that any city should fulfill? Is it a really city fit to live in and work for its residents? Does it deliver satisfactory services to the local business community and foreign investors? Several questions in the same vein can be raised.

Stretching over 54,000 hectares of land, Addis Ababa is officially home to some 3.8 million inhabitants who cherish different languages, cultures and faiths and coexist peacefully. How capable is the city's administration of satisfying the needs of this diverse population?

The administration's effort to deliver the services its residents and clients expect leaves a lot to be desired. Its failure to address satisfactorily interminable grievances attending the provision of land, housing, water and mass transport; the issuance and renewal of construction permits and trade licenses; the management of waste disposal, etc, bear testimony to this fact. The practical absence of accountability and transparency has led to widespread instances of bad governance and administrative malpractices throughout the city. To make matters worse, the corruption engendered by organized elements both within and outside the city administration has assumed alarming proportions. Furthermore, assets acquired at a considerable cost to the taxpayer are either misused or left unused until they become obsolete.

No one has been held accountable when some of the city administration's agencies practically became the fiefdoms of a certain extended family or individuals descended from the same village, when taxpayers are mistreated at the hand of a bureaucratic red tape or when the city's residents are denied recourse to lodge complaints protesting the miscarriage of justice. One thing of importance to note should be mentioned here. Though the administration of Mayor Diriba Kuma has been endeavoring to tackle the multi-faceted challenges confronting Addis Ababa ever since it came into office in July 2013, most of them still persist to this date since his cabinet is composed of members inherited by and large from his predecessor. Consequently, the laudable achievements of his administration are being overshadowed by these seemingly intractable problems.

According to the constitution of Ethiopia, the Administration of Addis Ababa is responsible to the federal government. It also stipulates that the special interest of the State of Oromia in Addis Ababa, regarding the provision of social services or the utilization of natural resources and similar other matters, as well as joint administrative matters arising from the location of Addis Ababa within the State of Oromia, shall be respected. Due to these and similar other reasons, there are millions of citizens who are as concerned about the fate of the city as its residents.

Therefore, in view of the fact that Addis Ababa is coming under the spotlight both locally and internationally, it needs an administration which it deserves. It is also high time that it is blessed with an administration which sees to it that the human and democratic rights of citizens as well as the rule of law is respected. This inspires, in both local and foreign investors, the confidence to invest their hard-earned money in the city, and exerts greater effort towards making the city resilient to climate change.

Addis Ababa has seen many ups and downs during its 127 years of existence. While the rapid pace of the construction of commercial and residential buildings, roads, light railways and other infrastructures has transformed the metropolis, due attention should be given to soft components which also play a vital role in improving the quality of life of its inhabitants. It is only then - and then only - that the city can live up to the reputation it is gaining globally.

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