King Ge­orge VI St, pi­azza

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Home to the 3.2 mil­lion year old “Lucy,” an up­right Aus­tralo­p­ithe­cus hu­manoid which was ex­ca­vated in 1974 by Amer­i­can pa­le­oan­thro­pol­o­gist Don­ald C. Jo­han­son, the Na­tional Mu­seum boasts a splen­did col­lec­tion. It also houses the throne of the late Em­peror Haile Se­lassie.

MESKEL SQUARE of 3.8 mil­lion is the head­quar­ters of the African Union, the United Na­tions Eco­nomic Com­mis­sion for Africa and has more UN diplo­matic mis­sions than any other city in the world out­side NewYork and Geneva, they cer­tainly have a point.

In ad­di­tion, Ethiopian Air­lines is fast be­com­ing the big­gest on the con­ti­nent with more des­ti­na­tions than any other African car­rier. It also links Ad­dis to Europe and to the US and Canada with di­rect flights to Wash­ing­ton, DC, Toronto and start­ing in June, to Los An­ge­les.

The im­age of Ethiopia held by many in the West runs counter to the cur­rent pic­ture. Con­struc­tion projects dot the Ad­dis sky­line and an ini­tia­tive to cre­ate more paved roads through­out the coun­try is bear­ing fruit. This is all part of the gov­ern­ment’s five year (2011-2015) Growth and Trans­for­ma­tion Plan. The next five year plan is ex­pected to be un­veiled later this year.

While the GDP might be just $47.3 bil­lion, which works out to $1,300 per capita (2013 fig­ures), it is grow­ing around a ro­bust 10 per­cent each year. Agri­cul­ture still dom­i­nates the na­tion’s econ­omy with cof­fee pro­duc­tion ac­count­ing for 10 per­cent of the GDP.

Ge­brse­lassie has dreams of open­ing an Hyundai parts plant near Ad­dis but ad­mits the com­pany’s stan­dards are ex­tremely high. Sur­pris­ingly his fac­tory wouldn’t be the first. For the past three years the Chi­nese au­to­mo­bile man­u­fac­turer Li­fan has been build­ing cars un­der the name Yang­fan Mo­tors.

Ev­ery­where there is ev­i­dence of Chi­nese in­vest­ment. The Ad­dis Light Rail Project (AALRP), which will crisscross the city when it opens in the spring, is one ex­am­ple. Its 39 sta­tions – 25 above ground – is funded by a $475 mil­lion loan from China and built by China Rail­way Group Ltd., the world’s sec­ond largest con­struc­tion con­trac­tor.

The Chi­nese gov­ern­ment also gifted the peo­ple of Ethiopia with the $200 mil­lion African Union build­ing. The twenty story of­fice tower – the tallest build­ing in Ad­dis – ad­joins a con­fer­ence cen­ter with a 2,500 seat as­sem­bly hall. Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the 54 mem­ber na­tions re­side in the Ethiopian cap­i­tal con­tribut­ing to the mul­ti­cul­tural ex­pe­ri­ence.

On the out­skirts of Ad­dis the Chi­nese shoe man­u­fac­turer Hua­jian has built a fac­tory which em­ploys more than 1,750 peo­ple. The com­pany pro­duces shoes for Guess, Tommy Hil­figer, Nat­u­ral­izer and many more well-known brands. The Ethiopian op­er­a­tion is re­port­edly ship­ping more than $1 mil­lion worth of shoes to Europe and the US each month.

Chi­nese com­pa­nies have long rec­og­nized the op­por­tu­ni­ties Ethiopia presents. La­bor is cheap and nonunion­ized, which is some­thing that for­mer US Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton warned could be ex­ploited by for­eign in­vestors when she vis­ited Africa three years ago. Some in­ter­preted her com­ments as a veiled dig at China. Per­haps most en­cour­ag­ing is that Ethiopia has en­joyed a sta­ble gov­ern­ment since 1991 – some­thing not ev­ery coun­try on the African con­ti­nent can claim.

In It for the Long Run

The late Prime Min­is­ter Me­les Ze­nawi, who died in 2012, was be­hind the am­bi­tious devel­op­ment plan now be­ing or­ches­trated by his suc­ces­sor, Haile­mariam De­salagn. It was Ze­nawi who laid the first stone in the con­tro­ver­sial project known as the Grand Ethiopian Re­nais­sance Dam.

The dam was ini­tially funded by the sale of bonds to wealthy ex-pa­triot Ethiopi­ans and high-in­come res­i­dents. Ge­brse­lassie

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