Historically one of the least urbanised countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Ethiopia, a member of the Cities Alliance, is undergoing a fundamental change. With a population of 78 million, the country is urbanising at a high rate of 4.2 percent a year.
Much of this urban growth is centred in the capital city of Addis Ababa. The city is home to 25 percent of Ethiopia’s total urban population. However, there is evidence to suggest that Ethiopia’s secondary cities are also growing rapidly.
The government of Ethiopia has recognised these trends and acknowledged the positive role played by urbanisation as a driving force behind national economic development. As a result, the government has established policy and regulatory frameworks and increased investment in critical areas such as housing, employment, and improved living conditions for urban residents.
It has also taken the step of establishing the first-ever Ethiopian Cities Network (ECN) in cooperation with the country’s major cities. The network is similar to the South African Cities Network (SACN) which was formed with the overall goal of promoting good governance and management of the country’s cities. With innovative approaches such as the Urban Renewal Programme, the SACN has been able to reduce urban poverty by concentrating its efforts on high-priority urban nodes.
The ECN was formally launched on 22 October 2009. It will serve as a forum for member cities to exchange experiences on improving and implementing strategic urban planning as well as innovative approaches towards urban development. It also seeks to promote sustainable, effective governance and provide cities with a mechanism for influencing policy development.
The network currently has 19 member cities across Ethiopia with Addis Ababa serving as the first chair of the elected Board of Directors. At the request of the government of Ethiopia, the Cities Alliance supported the formation of the ECN through its implementing partner German Technical Corporation (GTZ).
As a further sign of its commitment to urban issues, the national government has designated October 23 as “Ethiopian Cities Day,” an annual public event to reflect on urbanisation and urban development. This year’s inaugural celebrations took place from 23-26 October under the theme “Our Cities in Action.”
“The day designated for cities will also help popularise the Ethiopian government’s urban development agenda,” Minister of Works and Urban Development Dr. Kassu Iilala said at a press conference to mark the occasion.
Throughout the country, a variety of special events were held in order to help cities learn from one another. These included a documentary film screening, an exhibition on city marketing events, radio programmes, televised talk shows, panel discussions on municipal finance, partnership forums with cities and educational institutions, and a youth photography competition.
The 2009 Ethiopian Cities Day was organised by the Ministry of Work and Urban Development in partnership with the Urban Governance and Decentralisation Programme of GTZ, the Cites Alliance, and Corporate Media and Communication.