Tuesday, July 23, 2024
SocietyCasualties of change: the impact of Addis Ababa’s booming redevelopment projects

Casualties of change: the impact of Addis Ababa’s booming redevelopment projects

Hayat Kader, 28, works as a waitress at one of the many restaurants dotting the streets of Piassa, the historic neighborhood in the heart of Addis Ababa. Hayat lives near her workplace, renting a tiny room in an old house in the neighborhood, which she shares with her child.

The place she calls home is among the residences slated for demolition as part of a development project under the administration of Mayor Adanech Abiebie. City officials have recently ordered Hayat and her neighbors to leave their homes to make way for construction.

The administration wants to incorporate the land currently housing Hayat and her child into the Corner Development Project – a massive endeavor spanning from Tewodros Adebabay to Unity Park, and from Arat Kilo to the recently-opened Adwa complex via Ras Mekonnen Bridge.

It is all part of an extensive transformation taking place in the capital, and the latest ambitious undertaking means oblivion for the historic neighborhoods of Piassa, Doro Manekiya and Arat Kilo, and displacement for their residents.

Amidst the upheaval, personal stories emerge from those affected by the project. An elderly man, who requested his name be withheld, expressed concerns about being relocated to a more cramped residence with a large family and unfamiliar neighbors.

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Renters like Hayat and her friends, as well as landlords, ordered to vacate their homes face equal uncertainty in the future of their livelihoods.

“The city administration officials told us to vacate quickly. Now me and my friends have to find new places to rent and new jobs. This is very difficult for us,” said a frustrated Hayat.

There are many more people in Addis caught in a similar situation, told to make way for redevelopment projects in the pipeline. These include housing, riverside beautification, corridor development, infrastructure, and recreational projects introduced either by the federal government or the city administration.

However, the displacement figures pale in comparison to the nearly 100,000 residents who were forced to relocate from their homes in Shaggar City – on the outskirts of Addis Ababa – over the last couple of years.

The sprawling demolitions in Shaggar City were overseen by the Oromia regional administration.

Officials see the projects as a way to handle the needs of the capital’s fast-growing population. Failures on the part of past administrations to address these needs have also added to the burdens.

Girma Seifu, head of the Addis Ababa Investment Bureau, says the housing deficit in the capital is near 1.5 million units.

“We must be able to build housing fast. We couldn’t address existing housing deficits in the city, let alone addressing new housing demands,” he said.

While city officials justify the ongoing demolitions as part of a larger picture, the city’s residents are discontent with being uprooted from their homes and livelihoods.

Relocated residents who spoke to The Reporter said the detachment from neighbors, friends, workplaces, and a sense of community have had an impact on them and their families, especially children.

As Addis Ababa progresses towards a brighter future, the human cost of development is becoming increasingly apparent. The clash between progress and preservation impacts those directly affected by the city’s transformation, leaving behind shattered homes and disrupted communities. The voices of the displaced resonate through the city streets, highlighting the challenges faced by vulnerable residents.
Some residents who have been ordered to relocate also complain of insufficient provision of replacement housing, compensation, and a lack of essential services in the replacement homes they are relocated to as compensation.

Adanech is aware of the growing discontent, but the Mayor has largely dowplayed the issue, preferring to highlight the scale of the development projects and paint a picture of compliance and even gratitude on the part of uprooted residents.

“The relocations are underway after each relocating resident gave us consent and recognized the necessity of the projects,” said Adanech, while launching a housing project a few weeks ago.

As long as the city provides replacement housing for the relocating residents, there are no problems, according to the Mayor. However, there have been complaints from uprooted residents about not receiving the promised replacement housing.

Still, during recent discussions with residents, Tilahun Worku, head of cabinet affairs for the Mayor’s Office, emphasized the importance of community involvement in the development projects and ensuring that residents are treated with respect. Abebe Tekebe, head of the Arada Sub-city administration, reassured the public that replacement housing units would be complete and secure before any relocations occur.

The unfolding urban transformation in Addis Ababa underscores the delicate balance between progress and the well-being of its residents, shedding light on the complexities of development in a rapidly changing cityscape.

Sociologists as well as human rights advocates stress that the city administration should give aspects of social disruption as much attention as the development projects themselves. Experts also urge the government to direct scarce resources towards projects that can address the most pressing public demands, such as water, housing, power, and transport, instead of shiny projects designed to please foreigners.

Experts also caution that the long-term impacts of the development projects on the economy need to be taken into account.


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