In Ethiopia, tin-roofed shacks make way for high-rises
30 October 2016
41, with her son near her home in the Kazanches neighborhood of Addis
Ababa, Ethiopia, which has been singled out for redevelopment
ADDIS ABABA - 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
"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-of-four, a housekeeper,
The neighbourhood 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
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
"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
"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.
Topiyo Eshetu, who is unemployed, was among the first to move into one of the apartments six years ago, and did so grudgingly.
The municipality gave the family one month to leave their home on
Meskel Square in central Addis Ababa and pay the deposit of $800.
for people with no income it's difficult
"I collected from relatives and friends. For the people who can afford
it you can live a better life here ... but for people with no income
it's difficult," she said.
And now she adds the promise of greater comfort has not materialised.
Water and electricity is haphazard and there is not enough space for
her three children. And the family is struggling to pay the $35 a month
"We used to live in a small house within our income that we could afford, but here it's not compatible with our income."
Those who cannot afford the 10 percent down payment merely take the
compensation money for the destruction of their chika bet and go
elsewhere. Others who struggle to keep up with the repayments often end
up selling the condo and moving out.
For Alemu, this forced march to development is necessary to change the
image of Addis. "As the site of the African Union (headquarters), our
vision is to create a modern city which leads in the continent."
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