Tin-roofed shacks make way for high-rises in Ethiopia

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

Sur­rounded by the rub­ble of her for­mer neigh­bours’ homes, Get­nesh Amare hangs her laun­dry in the shadow of the high-rise of­fices and ho­tels tak­ing over the once in­salu­bri­ous cen­tre of Ethiopia’s cap­i­tal. “They have come many times to force us to move quickly. I’m not happy, but it’s a must. I have to move,” the mother-of­four, a house­keeper, told AFP.

The neigh­bor­hood of Kazanches, once a by­word for dodgy bars and pros­ti­tu­tion, has been sin­gled out as the new busi­ness cen­tre of Ad­dis Ababa by au­thor­i­ties de­ter­mined to rid the cap­i­tal of slum-like res­i­den­tial ar­eas.

On one side of the street, trendy cafes and bak­eries have cropped up, while on the other, hold­outs like Amare are cling­ing to their tin-roofed mud huts, known as “chika bet”, for which they pay a monthly rent of less than a dol­lar. Au­thor­i­ties are try­ing to con­vince her to move into a three-bed­room “con­do­minium”, the Ethiopian ver­sion of so­cial hous­ing. How­ever, the thought of liv­ing in one of the large hous­ing pro­jects mush­room­ing on the out­skirts of Ad­dis Ababa does not impress her.

“It is not very com­fort­able. The water comes twice a week and it’s on the fourth floor,” Amare com­plained. And above all, the apart­ment is more than an hour’s com­mute from the cen­tre of the city.

The con­dos have be­come a sym­bol of Ethiopia’s devel­op­ment, and a way for au­thor­i­ties to clean up down­town Ad­dis, cre­ate jobs and house more than three mil­lion peo­ple still liv­ing in chika bets. “I am not sure you can say this is a house,” Hare­got Alemu, gen­eral man­ager of the Land Devel­op­ment and Ur­ban Re­newal Agency, said of the chika bet.

“There is no ac­cess to toi­lets. There is no ac­cess to clean water. There is no ac­cess to sewage. In the con­dos the life of peo­ple is com­pletely changed,” he said. The Ethiopian govern­ment wants the coun­try to be ranked “mid­dle-in­come” by 2025, mean­ing a gross na­tional in­come of more than $1,000 per per­son. The con­do­mini­ums are seen as a way to cre­ate a mid­dle-class of prop­erty own­ers.

“The ob­jec­tive is also to en­cour­age the sav­ings habit of the cit­i­zens of Ad­dis so they can af­ford to buy their house,” said Alemu. In Jamo, one of these new sub­ur­ban high-rise clus­ters, blocks of build­ings have sprung up one af­ter the other. Henok Kasahun, 27, moved here to a one-bed­room apart­ment, with­out re­grets.

“The fa­cil­i­ties are bet­ter. You have good toi­lets, a kitchen, and easy ac­cess to water and elec­tric­ity. Be­fore, in our pre­vi­ous house, we didn’t have such fa­cil­i­ties,” he said. The govern­ment’s goal is to build 700,000 apart­ments in the next five years. De­mand is high and au­thor­i­ties have set up a lot­tery sys­tem for as­pir­ing house­hold­ers which 750,000 peo­ple have signed up to.

The cost of mod­ern liv­ing

How­ever, moder­nity has a price. To ac­quire a condo, fu­ture own­ers must pay at least 10 per­cent of the price-be­tween $5,000 and $25,000 (4,500 and 22,900 eu­ros) de­pend­ing on the size and lo­ca­tion. In a coun­try where the monthly salary is be­low $100, re­pay­ment can quickly be­come un­af­ford­able. — AFP

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