31 July 2018

Ethiopia: Shaping Secondary Cities Than Ever Before

Alemu Assefa resides in Dessie town; he acknowledges the ongoing efforts of development and improving the facilities in line with growing demands of the societies. But he believes that the infrastructure development and the service provisions at various sectors are not meeting the demand of the community. He said that secondary cities should be well managed and shaped.

Getnet Arya who resides in Hawassa town cherishes living at the town for many reasons; for instance, he has the open opportunity to come to the capital in short period of time. He decided to distance himself and families so that he chose Hawassa as his permanent residence. Cognizant of the necessity of dealing with the approaches of shaping secondary cities, The Ethiopian Herald approached some experts.

Addis Ababa University College of Development Studies and Centre for Food Security Head Associate Professor Dr.Messay Mulugeta notes that the gap between Addis Ababa and the supposed secondary cities is widening steadily.

"We are witnessing that Addis Ababa, as a primary city, is expanding fast and having a number of high-rise buildings. But, when comes to developing secondary cities in other parts of the nation, the efforts are not well addressed as per equality to the growing demands."

A secondary city often follows a primary city and it can be seen in the urban hierarchy. Secondary cities have between 500,000 to 3 million inhabitants, but are often unknown outside of their national or regional context. A secondary city is largely determined by population, size, function, and economic status.

According to this definition, Ethiopia has only one primary city -- the capital Addis Ababa. On the other hand, it is difficult to tell as to how many secondary or potential secondary cities Ethiopia has, as the definition.

According to the Word Bank's flagship publication, the World Development Indicator, about 20 percent of Ethiopia's population lived in urban areas in 2016, ranking 248th out of 260 countries surveyed, according to that report. From Africa, only five countries fell below Ethiopia: South Sudan, Niger, Uganda, Malawi and Burundi.

"In terms of narrowing gabs among those cities, the nation has to do its home work properly before it is too late," Dr.Messay added.

For him, secondary cities act as modal points between the rural and the urban. So the public and the pertinent stakeholders should rethink to relocate some national/international headquarters to secondary cities.

"We know that secondary cities are no longer defined by population size. Today, functionality and connectivity with global and national systems of cities has a significant influence on the way secondary cities are defined. "

He mentions the experience of China. "It has many secondary cities that have similar facilities, resources and services at proximity. Other than Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chengdu, Hangzhou, Wuhan, Tianjin, Nanjing, among others are absorbing the growing quest for better life.

"These cities have international and federal public offices; for instance, United Nations Headquarter is found Shanghai. The case in Ethiopia is different; all are jammed in the capital which should not have been."

As to him, Addis Ababa should not stay being the only political, educational, and cultural center as well as investment and manufacturing hubs because such move has bad consequences like ending up with many illegal settlements.

Stepping up efforts to build industrial parks and mega projects could pave the way to own the secondary cities across the nation, he says.

"Such development activities should be well exploited; states should show high commitment in putting place investment infrastructure and other social services with a view to shaping and turning the urban migration into opportunity," said Dr.Messay.

Urban Policy Researcher Bilen Gebrsilase said, "If the nation had owned secondary cities, Addis Ababa should have shaped better in urbanization with established approaches."

Addis Ababa is found far from the secondary cities of the nation like Adama, Hawassa, Kombolcha, Jimmaa, Diredawa, Mekele, Shashamane, Jigjiga ,Debre Berhan, among others.

The secondary city demand is not simply about place of residence, it rather needs commitment in allocating investment resources that could lead fair economic distribution, she says.

"When we are looking at the trends in relation to building and shaping capital city worldwide, many have relocated their primary cities; for example, Brazil, Russia, Nigeria, Kazakhstan, Tanzania, Egypt, among others. We should at least develop our secondary cities."

According to her, the Nation should work on persuading nation to relocate embassy and international non-government headquarters out of the capital.

The secondary cities should rest on well organized approaches. Unguided urbanization could lead to affecting the natural environment and livelihoods, posing human and natural hazards to surface.

"Addressing the challenges in organized schemes will help building secondary cities in line with sustainable development code and innovative approaches."

Finally, nation urbanization efforts should address the ever growing demands with established experiences from prospective nation.

"We know that Ethiopia is still among the least urbanized countries in the world. Despite the rapid rate of urbanization, less than 20 percent of the country's over 90 million people live in urban areas, which is even way below the Sub-saharan average of 37 percent," the researcher emphasized.

The urbanization process is also characterized by unbalanced growth and absence of secondary cities. Addis Ababa, which is ten times larger than the second largest city in the country, has been singlehandedly bearing the burden of the rapid urbanization and rural-urban migration.

According to the Central Statistics Agency, nation urban population is projected to nearly triple from 15.2 million in 2012 to 42.3 million in 2037, growing at 3.8 per cent per a year.

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