About 20.4 per cent of the total population of Ethiopia lives in urban areas, which has rendered it as one of the least urbanized countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Despite this low level of urbanization, however, the country has one of the highest rates of urbanization even by the standards of developing countries, which is estimated at 4.1 per cent. This is also much higher than the average growth rate of the total national population, which is estimated at 3 per cent per annum.
While 30 percent of the Ethiopian population is expected to reside in urban areas by 2025, about 60 percent of the urban areas are estimated to be slum devoid of basic services. There is thus an equal need for an urban poverty and welfare focus to the strategy for urban development as there is for the functional focus on urban areas' contribution to national economic growth.
Recently, the Minister of Urban and Development and Housing (MUDH) organized a discussion forum to assess the urban infrastructure development program, expansion of urban infrastructure facilities and the ten month performance of the sector.
Ethiopia has been implementing the Second Urban Local Government Development Program (ULGDP II) with the support of the World Bank. The program is expected to enhance the institutional performance of participating ULGs in developing and sustaining urban infrastructure and services, through provision of three interlinked and mutually strengthening tools: Performance-based investment grants, objective and neutral annual performance assessments, linked to the size of allocations and comprehensive capacity building support to the cities and to the regions to enhance their capacity in supporting ULGs as well as support to the implementing agency. The Ministry of Urban Development, Housing and Construction (MUDHCo, the Ministry) is in charge of the Program, as under ULGDP I.
Generally, between 2016/17-2022, some 556.55 million USD has been allocated for the implementation of the program and some 44 cities and towns are included. Next year, the project will include additional 117 towns.
On the occasion, Jantsrar Abay Minister of Urban Development and Housing told The Ethiopian Herald the ministry has been devising strategies in implementing the program to make the country's urban areas comfortable for living and capable of supplying basic services to their residents through extensive infrastructural development.
As to him, the project specifically targets infrastructural development that would improve supply of clean drinking water, waste management, road construction, markets, development of public parks, bridges and the likes.
According to Amlak Adamu Fund Mobilization and Finance Head at the Urban Revenue Reform, the urban infrastructural expansion program has been implemented in rapidly growing cities to make room for their inevitable expansion.
The program has also brought about real and tangible results in improving the situation of infrastructure in rapidly growing cities. "We are working with municipalities at state and federal levels to make realistic long term preparations for future urbanizations," he said.
Specifically, Amlak said the urban planning policy has identified three basic challenges facing the development of urban centers in the country i.e development, good governance and democracy. In order to facilitate successful urban development, it is imperative to create linkage between the three issues and resolve them.
There are criteria for measuring the outcome of urban infrastructural development initiatives under the program, which specifically has to do with job opportunity, equal distribution of benefits, efficient service delivery, accountability and social and environmental benefits. So far the program has benefited some 2.6 million people.
Accordingly, the progr- am has brought about four major outcomes so far. The major one is that the participation of the society has increased significantly and most of the projects are selected by the communities themselves. Secondly, a large number of job opportunities have been created for the youth. Some 312,460 youths have gotten temporary and permanent job oppo- rtunities where 40 percent of them are women. Again, the value of land in urban areas has also increased, enabling city administra- tions to increase their revenue.
The implementation of the program has shown encouraging results so far, he underscored. Yet, lack of commi tment, steering technical committee, lack of quality, lack of belongingness are main challenges to achieve the objective of the program.
According to him, while the implementation has shown 100 per cent success in Tigray towns and Jigjiga town of the Somali state, Gamebella and Harari have shown poor implementation performance.