Addis Ababa, a city that embraces people from all corners of the country and the world, has undergone remarkable geographical expansion. What were once sprawling fields of agriculture have now transformed into bustling urban areas.
The outskirts of the city have blossomed into vibrant metropolises within the larger tapestry of Addis Ababa. Just visit Bethel, and you’ll find yourself immersed in a megacity that thrives within the grandeur of Addis Ababa. Similarly, Bulbula has emerged as a self-sustained urban center, complete with all the amenities one would expect from a city.
With a population close to five million, Addis Ababa has become a bustling hub comparable to nations like Norway. While the physical expansion of the city has slowed with the establishment of the new city like Sheger, the population within the capital continues to grow. The days of sprawling villas with vast compounds are now history, as apartment complexes have become the popular choice to accommodate the ever-increasing number of residents. In fact, purchasing land in Addis Ababa can now rival the prices seen in renowned megacities such as Dubai!
While the city’s growth is undoubtedly a cause for celebration, the rapid increase in population raises valid concerns. Due to limited employment opportunities in other parts of the country, more and more individuals are flocking to the capital in pursuit of better incomes. However, it is disheartening to note that Addis Ababa attracts not only hardworking individuals seeking livelihoods but also those who wish to exploit alternative means of income.
Beggars, pickpockets, and even more sophisticated criminals have found their way to the city, making their presence increasingly noticeable, particularly at traffic stops. Navigating through these intersections has become a cautious endeavor for commuters.
There was once talk of implementing a law that would prohibit giving money to beggars and purchasing from street vendors at traffic lights. However, the fate of such legislation remains unknown. What I do know is that begging has now become a highly profitable enterprise in the city. It is particularly common to see mothers begging while carrying their young children, a scene that has become all too familiar in our city.
This situation leads me to wonder: wouldn’t it be possible to outlaw begging not just in the city but throughout the entire country? I have always maintained that where there are people asking, there will always be people willing to give, and vice versa. Simply attempting to punish those who give without addressing the root cause of those who ask will not yield the desired outcome of reducing, or ideally eliminating, begging in our nation.
I may come across as harsh and unsympathetic toward the plight of the poor, but I firmly believe that if individuals are left with no choice but to work hard for their livelihood, they will indeed work hard because their survival depends on it.
Begging is not, and should not be, a sustainable strategy for generating income. People engage in begging because they know there are individuals who will freely give them money. However, if they were absolutely certain that no one would provide money for free, they would be willing to pay the necessary price to survive in this world.
After all, the pangs of hunger are impossible to ignore. So, I can’t help but wonder, why can’t we, as a nation, outlaw begging or mendicancy?