Arkebe Oqubay, Mayor of Addis Ababa

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Mayor Arkebe Oqubay:
Making Addis Ababa the Diplomatic City of Africa

I spent most of my youth struggling against the ruthless and dictatorial military regime of Ethiopia called the Derge. I served with the top leadership of the liberation struggle in the capacity of a member of the executive council responsible for socio-economic affairs of the liberation army and the liberated areas. I also served the liberation movement as a member of the senior leadership of the military committee and as regional commander of the liberation army. After 17 years of armed struggle for justice, equality, democracy and economic development, our Front, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front – EPRDF, ousted the dictatorial regime of the Derge in 1991.

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This opened a new era in the history of Ethiopia. A democratic constitution that envisaged multiparty democracy that embraced the diversity of the country was adopted. More importantly, the constitution envisaged the establishment of a federal government constituting nine federal states and two chartered cities. I then occupied one of the senior leadership posts of the EPRDF and was elected to lead the regional development endeavours of the Tigray Regional State, which has a population of about 3.5 million, with less than twenty per cent of them living in urban areas.

I served as an executive director and as a member of the board of directors of the endowment funds that were established to play a crucial role in the economic and urban development efforts of the Tigray Region. As a member of the leadership in charge of socio-economic affairs during the time of war, and as a member of the leadership during these times of peace and democracy, I had the opportunity of experiencing first hand the challenges in relation to human settlement and urban development.

Since then I have long been involved in such issues. In 2000 I was elected to the Regional Council of Tigray, one of the nine Regional States that constitute the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. The Council then elected me Vice-president (deputy chief executive) of the Regional State with special responsibilities for urban and industrial development. Shortly afterwards I was assigned to serve as Mayor of Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia, which was then facing deep-seated economic and governance problems. Addis Ababa was facing growing unemployment, shelter problems, poor governance, health and education challenges, urban finance uncertainties and a deteriorating environment. My assignment as Mayor meant direct involvement in the urban management of a city with accumulated and complex socio-economic and political problems. Over the past three years, my challenge was not only to reverse these trends, but also to ultimately transform Addis Ababa into ‘The Diplomatic City of Africa’. This submission for the 2005 World Mayor Award is based upon my key achievements in urban development and urban governance as a Mayor of the City Government of Addis Ababa over the past three years.

I gained an MMT (Open University 2001), an MSc in International Relations (1996, The Netherlands), and MBA (UK, 1994). On March 31, 2005, the Broadcasting Network of Africa named me African Mayor of 2005.

Description of the Challenges, Measures taken and Achievements
Urban Governance
The city of Addis Ababa and its citizens were experiencing poor urban governance as manifested in a highly centralised government system, un-participatory governance, poor service delivery, and lack of transparency. The political system was heavily bureaucratic involving a four-layered decision- making structure with most of the real power concentrated at city level. In particular, the lowest administrative structures, the Kebele Administrations, were almost solely preoccupied with routine administrative tasks. They were not involved in urban development and good governance endeavours in any meaningful way. A highly centralised political system also meant that active community participation in the socio-economic and political affairs of their neighbourhood was undermined. Delivery of municipal and public services was often inefficient and non-transparent, while levels of corruption were high in some areas.

Accordingly, we vigorously undertook four core interrelated policy reforms aimed at improving the overall urban governance of Addis Ababa: decentralisation, community participation, civil service reform and improvement of service delivery.

We believe that decentralisation of political power and the service delivery system down to the lower tiers of government is crucial to ensuring better governance, empowerment of communities and efficient delivery of public and municipal services. We also saw decentralisation as being an indispensable instrument to promoting an active participation of the public and thereby ensure accountability, transparency and efficiency of the urban governance system.

We aggressively pursued a decentralisation policy and radically reorganised the local administration system in order to improve the living and working conditions of its inhabitants, to advance good governance and urban development and yield efficient public service delivery. We reorganised the political structure, devolving real power to the communities. The four-tier government system was reduced to three (these are the City-level Administration, Sub-City Administration and Kebele Administration) with the lower tiers entrusted with significant power to decide on matters regarding urban development and governance of their localities, while the city-level executive mainly focused on policy-making, capacity building and regulatory tasks.

Community Participation

The second core element of our efforts to enhance urban governance in the city concerned community participation. To enhance the participation of the community in the development, governance, administration and other political issues of their neighbourhoods, People’s Advisory Councils - that now have more than 80,000 members - were established at all three levels (City, Sub-City and Kebele) with members drawn from all sections of society (women, youth, elderly, private sector, non-governmental organizations, academia, influential personalities, etc.). Any policies, programs and budget proposals initiated by the City Government have to be deliberated by these councils before they are proclaimed for implementation.

Every effort has been made to ensure the adequate representation of women in the political system. For instance, at the Kebele level they make up at least a third of the political leadership.

Civil Service Reform
The city’s large civil service (more than 40,000) was also radically reformed to improve service delivery, and ensure transparency and accountability. At the core of this reform were decentralisation of the government system and the establishment of a thin but efficient bureaucracy.

Public and Municipal Service Delivery Improvement
The service delivery process was studied in depth and was subsequently brought under stringent scrutiny to make it more efficient and transparent. The impact of such overhauling of the bureaucracy and the service delivery process was immediate. Delivery of services to residents and local businesses showed dramatic improvements.

Shelter is another serious problem for the city. Not only is there an acute shortage of accommodation, but also the available housing stock is itself of poor standard, often lacking basic facilities such as sanitation. It was estimated that about 300,000 new/additional homes were needed to meaningfully address the problem, which we have confronted head-on by implementing our Grand Integrated Housing Development Program (GIHDP).

The key innovative components of the program are as follows:
Introduction and use of low cost construction technology: The construction industry in Ethiopia deploys a conventional technology that is very expensive and thereby denies low- and middle-income communities from owning a modest home. So long as such costs remained high, it was difficult to create a situation where the low- and middle-income communities would be able to rent or buy a modest house in the city.

The basic underpinning of the low cost technology has been the economical use of land, the use of improved cost-saving housing designs, the use of prefabricated construction materials, simple and labour intensive technologies and the introduction of efficient procurement procedures.

Redevelopment and upgrading of slum areas without dislocating and disturbing the socio-economic activities of slum dwellers: Another problem of the city concerns the fact that a larger part of it consists of decaying slum areas. The program aims to reduce slums in Addis Ababa by half.

Pursuing a mixed settlement approach: Traditionally, neighbourhoods are of mixed settlement where poor and rich live together in peace and harmony. To retain this culture, the housing units have been designed for low, middle and high-income households so that all sections can live together in the same or nearby apartment blocks.

Wealth creation, equitable distribution and economic empowerment of the poor: The housing program aims to make the citizens of Addis Ababa owner-occupiers (and not tenants). By enabling people to become property owners, the program aims to economically empower low and middle income residents in particular, helping them to become financially more independent.

In early 2004 we successfully launched and completed a pilot project of the program for the construction of about 700 housing units. Construction costs were reduced by almost a half, while construction time was cut significantly. In collaboration with one of the banks in the city, we sold all the pilot houses to residents of Addis Ababa. The program won popular support. More than 452,000 applications were made by residents to buy the low-cost apartments to be constructed under the housing development program. These included those from disadvantaged communities - women, youth, slum dwellers, and the elderly.
Based on the lessons drawn from the pilot project, we launched the construction of about 50,000 housing units and allocated about 40% of the city’s budget for the housing program in 2005. To date the implementation of the housing program has been making good progress.

The program has created job opportunities for more than 40,000 in 2005 alone. About 1,000 small enterprises have been established and are now actively participating in various works of the projects

Community-based Slum Reduction, Neighbourhood Upgrading and Development
Parallel to executing a housing development program, we have revitalised the neighbourhood development program that was first started a few years back. This program mainly targets slum areas of the city. These areas lack access roads, proper sanitation and drainage systems, access to clean water, education and health services. The program works by mobilising communities to work in partnership with the government.

Poverty Reduction and Private Sector Development
Lack of decent employment opportunities and limited private investment are characteristic features of the city. High unemployment, particularly among disadvantaged groups such as youth and women, was identified as the biggest socio-economic challenge of the City Government when I first took office in 2003. Unemployment was in excess of 40 per cent, and youth and women were disproportionately affected. We designed a strategy to help expand decent employment opportunities, particularly for such disadvantaged social groups.

Land/Working Premises
In 2004, more than 222,000 square metres of working space was provided for small businesses, benefiting about 40,000 operators of such enterprises. In 2005 we shifted the whole strategy to one of providing land/working premises in clustered industrial zones and accordingly provided about 1.5 million square metres of land. This year we have constructed metal and wood workshops in 25 industrial zones that can accommodate nearly 50,000 small business operators. 

Credit Facilities
The second constraining problem of small and micro enterprises concerns access to credit. Accordingly, we have established a micro financial institution that accords credit to small business at acceptable terms and conditions.

Improving Regulatory Environment
A Bureau headed by a member of the City’s Cabinet has been established to co-ordinate the support provided to, and oversees the overall development of, the small enterprises. All these supports are provided in one stop service centres at the Kebeles.

Other Supports
Technological support is also provided to small businesses in the form of improved equipment and machinery that help improve productivity and quality of product of the firms. Support is also provided to small firms to access any domestic and foreign market opportunities.

The Results
The outcome of these integrated and co-ordinated supports was encouraging. In 2004 small businesses created about 65,000 new jobs in the city, while this number more than doubled in 2005 where more than 110,000 people got temporary and permanent employment opportunities with micro and small enterprises. Women accounted for about 50 per cent, and youth 75 per cent, of the newly created jobs in 2005.

The promotion of small enterprises does not imply the neglect of the formal large-scale investments. Instead we the city government has vigorously worked to create an enabling business environment for large-scale investment.

Environment Protection and sanitation
Addis Ababa was also facing substantial environmental challenges. In light of our limited financial capacity, we particularly identified sanitation problems and degradation of green areas in the city as the most serious and requiring immediate action. Over the past two years we have brought about a significant improvement in the cleanliness of Addis Ababa by instituting simple but effective methods.
Model African City: Prevention and Control of HIV/AIDS
With regard to health, we identified the prevention and control of the spread of HIV/AIDS as our top priority. We promoted an active community participation in the fight against the pandemic, establishing HIV/AIDS prevention councils consisting of different community groups such as youth, women, the elderly, faith groups, the business community, NGOs and representatives from the city government.

All of these measures have resulted in a behavioural change among people, as well as a significant turn around of the spread of the virus and stigmatisation of people suffering from it. According to Peter Piot, the UNAIDS Director, Addis Ababa’s anti-AIDS program can be taken as a model by other African cities.

Youth and Education
The primary education enrolment rate is currently about 96 per cent, while secondary education is only about 39 per cent. The quality of education is poor, as reflected particularly in the shift system where students attend only half-day education to free up rooms for the next round of students. We therefore focused on increasing the number of classrooms so that students can get full day education, thus increasing secondary education enrolment.

In 2005 we launched the construction of nearly 200 school blocks with 4,000 classrooms that can accommodate 200,000 students so as to eradicate the shift system (half-day education).

Urban Finance
Addis has the position of a city and a city-state and hence depends on its own revenue to finance its recurrent and capital budgets. One of the goals we set after assuming power in 2003 was to dramatically increase the huge revenue potential of the city by identifying new sources. In 2003, the total revenue of the City Government of Addis Ababa was Birr 900 million. This was nearly doubled in 2004. In 2005, the city’s revenue further increased to reach Birr 2.2 billion.

City Promotion and International Relations
Despite its vast potential as a tourist destination, Addis has never been promoted much in the tourist markets. As a national capital and as a seat of various regional, continental and international organisations, and as the African city with largest number of Embassies in the continent, Addis Ababa needed to be presented to reflect its importance in this respect.

Thus over the past three years measures were taken that reflect the position of the city as a diplomatic capital of Africa. The major streets of the city were named after the 52 African States that are members of the African Union, while two thousand square metres of land were provided free to all African Embassies in Addis for the construction of their chanceries and residential buildings. These have provided Addis with a real feel of Africa and contributed to making Addis the diplomatic capital of Africa.

To exchange knowledge and best practices in urban governance and development with other cities in the world, and to promote the city across all regions of the world, as well as to establish people-to-people relationships with residents of cities across the world, Addis Ababa has established sisterhood agreements with Johannesburg, Lusaka, Gaborone, Beijing, Chuncheon, Leipzig, Be’er-Sheva, Ankara, and Lyon. So far we have already succeeded in transforming these sister-city agreements into concrete and beneficial programs of cooperation and the exchange of knowledge.

Addis Ababa, the 'Diplomatic City of Africa'

Addis Ababa

With a population of more than three million, Addis Ababa is a very cosmopolitan city with about 80 nationalities speaking their own languages and dialects, and Christian and Muslim communities living together in harmony and peace.  Addis Ababa is the capital city of Ethiopia, and is also the seat of the African Union and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.

The City of Addis Ababa has the status of both a city and a state, with a charter endorsed by the federal government.  The Mayor is the chief executive of the city government.

The second tier of government refers to the Sub-Cities.  Addis Ababa is divided into 10 Sub-Cities with significant responsibilities regarding municipal and non-municipal services.

The lowest tier of government is the Kebele.  Each sub-city has on average about 10 Kebeles under it, and hence the City is divided into 99 Kebeles.  The functions of the Kebeles have been transformed from routine administrative tasks to more meaningful development-oriented, participatory and empowering responsibilities. 

The Kebeles together with the Sub-Cities are now responsible for the provision of most of municipal and non-municipal functions.