Ethiopia’s vision for a cleaner and greener city

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In recent months, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has rallied Ethiopians to collaborate in “shaping cleaner and greener cities that reflect the essence of Africa’s capital”.

Over the past few years, Addis Ababa city government has led efforts to enhance its urban landscape, with a focus on parks, libraries, museums and and housing. These efforts have spurred differnt projects aimed at revitalizing public amenities and improving urban aesthetics, as highlighted in statements from government offices.

This initiative has ignited works aimed at elevating urban aesthetics and modernizing public amenities, as highlighted in a press release from the PM Office via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The View from Friendship park Addis Ababa

A notable initiative is the city-wide cleanliness campaign, pivotal to upholding urban hygiene standards. Launched in 2019, this initiative has expanded its reach to encompass numerous cities in Ethiopia, with the goal of instilling a nationwide culture awakening that reimagines urban development in Ethiopia.

As part of city-wide plans to improve infrastructure, there has been a concerted effort to improve pedestrian-friendly infrastructure across various neighborhoods. Remarkable initiatives include the enhancement of healthcare facilities and the rejuvenation of community spaces like soccer fields.

Building upon these triumphs, leadership has shifted focus on revitalizing Addis Ababa’s main thoroughfares, with the corridor project. The emphasis lies on modernizing public amenities and enhancing the overall livability of the city. “The public works projects we undertook during the past couple of years, including the Adwa museum has had a lot more buy-in from residents that we expected”, said the Mayor’s office.

The newly built Adwa Museum in Addis Ababa (Photo by Hilena Tafesse)

At the core of this endeavor lies a recent proclamation of groundbreaking campaign to address the dearth of bathrooms available to the pubic in the capital. This month Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed revealed plans for the establishment of sanitary public restrooms.

To the outside world it may seem banal, but to this fast-growing urban metropolis of nearly six million people, making sure people have access to adequate toilets is no trite matter. It is also important to the city’s image as Africa’s diplomatic center. Speaking to journalists, Addis Ababa Mayor Adanech Abiebe said, “Our city must remain competitive and attractive in order to remain relevant, and also fitting for what we aspire for country in general”. 

The construction of modern and well kept public restrooms aims to enhance accessibility and foster cleanliness in a city where many people lack plumbing at home. On a broader scale, it underscores the vital nexus between urban sanitation and clean cities in Africa.

Dubbed “Clean Ethiopia,” the initiative incorporates a digital fundraising telethon themed ‘Clean Cities – Healthy Lives,’ to garner financial and material backing for the construction of these public facilities. To showcase this endeavor, a prototype has been erected, offering a glimpse of the cities new public restrooms.

Addis Ababa’s recent transformation is not without controversy however. Some residents relocated to make way for construction projects complain they were not given adequate time to plan. Local media ran testimonials countering this claim, but city government does admit there were some gaps.

The people in charge at the Mayor’s office remain committed to the grand strategy however, testament to Ethiopia’s new generation of leaders’ dedicated to changing the city’s long standing squalor. “In the end, the work will speaks for itself”, said Prime Minister Abiy in a recent televised discussion.

Most agree Addis Ababa is long overdue for a makeover. Large chucks of the city were kept decrepit for decades. It also became impossible to reinvent the city given the intractable politics of Ethiopia. There was really no bold leadership to tackle the city’s intertwined problems, until now.

The view fro Entoto Park, on the outskirts of Addis Ababa

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