10 December 2017

Ethiopia: Why Infrastructure, Urbanization Are Vital

It is no hyperbole to say that no particular feature of modern life is more important than the state of urbanization in Ethiopia. All other economic sectors may move forward or lose headway in direct relationship with the state of towns and cities, according to officials and experts.

Most towns in Ethiopia are growing unprecedentedly while some lags behind the expectation in creating huge commercial opportunities, minimize wealth inequalities between and among communities and investors. Building urban environments that meet the needs of residents and investors is currently becoming a major challenge for Ethiopian towns.

The slow construction progress of Hawassa-Dilla asphalt road puts its own negative impact on the daily business activities of the surrounding people as well as on the socio-economic development of the nation as a whole.

Gedeo Zone Administrator Hailemariam Tesfaye recently told The Ethiopian Herald that the construction of Hawassa-Dilla asphalt road shows slow-moving progress due to the incapability of contractors and lack of strict follow up from the road-governing bodies.

As the Zone administration covers 42 per cent of its expenditure by collecting revenue from taxes, it is currently struggling against the poor infrastructural developments and slow interregional trade activities, he added.

In this regard, Hailemariam said that the administration has planned to collect 403 million Birr during the last fiscal year; it only collected 230 million Birr. This implies that the administration loses 170 million Birr due to such inactive road infrastructural developments, he commented.

Hailemariam also noted: "The road used to take one and half hour from Dilla to Hawassa. Currently the duration is increasing for about four hours. This slow-moving progress has also put negative impact on coffee export marketing as well as the benefit that should be gained from visitors and neighborhood trade relations."

"As the Dilla town entertains huge market centers that could mobilize over 1.5 billion Birr, it is decidedly required to fulfill the necessary infrastructural developments to effectively exploit the untapped coffee export markets for shared prosperity."

World Bank Fiscal Year 2016 report highlighted: with 78 percent of the world's poor people living in rural areas and most depending on agriculture for their livelihoods, increasing farm productivity and resilience, strengthening farmers' links to markets, and providing affordable food are proven ways to end poverty and boost shared prosperity.

Dilla University's Public and International Relations Director Henok Negusie also commented that although there are massive economic opportunities such as production of coffee and vegetables in Gedeo Zone, the absence of infrastructural provision harms the surrounding community to catch the wave of urban prosperity.

Improving road transport and infrastructure is also a matter of public safety, he added. Road transport in most developing countries is not only an economic affair; it is verily intertwined with people's cultural exchange.

Obviously, for rural residents of most developing countries, road transport is the primary means of production used to generate a livelihood for a family, and accumulate wealth that farmers can transfer to future generations.

Most scholars found out that the urban development models after the downfall of the Derg regime were formulated based on concepts, philosophies and conditions that prevailed in the growing economies over the last two decades.

It is argued that Ethiopia should increase the density of its road network in order to connect the unconnected, and to make the sector remain an important factor for national economic growth.

It is now clear that these approaches are not properly used for the development of Ethiopian urbanization. Of course, the government has made attempts to relieve population pressure in major cities in building houses connected by roads to the urban centre.

In this regard, developments in Addis Ababa, Hawassa, Mekele, Bahirdar, and Gondar are envisioned as self-contained or economically self-sufficient cities.

On the contrary, some towns in Ethiopia like Dilla seems neglected from the growth of massive road construction programmes that could help to rehabilitate the infrastructure, develop the countryside, and thereby revitalize the agriculture sector.

According to Hailemariam, his administration is looking forward to engage private sectors and foreign investments in urban development projects. It is still busy to grow up towns with regulated determination to realize the expansion of more superb cities in the state.

He also said that the administration recognizes the need to widen the country's economic base looking at public private partnership, building industrial investments, and so forth.

Gedeo Zone Resident Elder Haicha Alemayehu suggest that critical decisions must be provided from government on the development of road infrastructure to Gedeo Zone that will lock growth trajectories for many years to come.

Some observers also suggested that major investments in transport and other economic sectors need to have well-built infrastructural framework as well-planned cities can usher transformative industrialization, which the country currently aspires to achieve.

As they are patently complementary, both the economic and urban policies of the country need to have common and shared vision to improve transportation infrastructure that will goes hand in hand with urbanization.

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