A Master of Plans

Urban planners from Addis Abeba and the Oromia Regional State occupied the eighth floor of a new building near the national stadium for two years, as they developed a one of a kind master plan for Addis Abeba and towns on the outskirts of the City. They were assisted in the process by experts from Addis Abeba’s sister city in France, Lyon, as well as local experts.

The conviction about the master plan was such that a training manual for trainers, tabled for discussion in Adama last month, assertively declared – “We all perish, if we don’t coordinate and grow quickly!” The end of the process, nevertheless, would bring about riots in several Oromia towns, most significantly in Ambo, 126Km west of the capital, where lives were lost and property damaged due to the ensuing chaos.

Addis Abeba has gone through a number of plans in its 126 years, from the first one developed during the Italian occupation to the master plan it revised 10 years ago. None of these plans looked beyond the city boundaries, says Ezana Haddis, lecturer of urban planning at the Ethiopian Civil Service University. Yet Addis Abeba and the Oromia Special Zones are home to a population of 5.7 million people living on 1.1 million hectares of land.

There was one, however, with real foresight that was developed in the 1950s, although it would not be implemented. It was developed by Sir Leslie Patrick Abercombie – an architect and professor of civic design at Liverpool University and professor of town planning at the University College of London.

Most of what he did then in Europe attempted to integrate cities with outlying towns, or even suggested the creation of such places. He has re-planned several towns in England, but he would become more renowned for his plans for London in the wake of the Second World War, which would later be known as the New Towns movement. This led to the creation of Harlow, Crawley and Harold Hill around London. Later he would redesign Hong Kong under commission to the British government and, in 1946, Emperor Haileselassie hired him as a planning consultant. He completed the master plan for Addis Abeba in 1956 – the year before he died.

His plan was the first to consider outlying areas, but was never implemented.

With Sir Patrick’s plan as an exception, Ezana says that the new master plan is the first to incorporate the surrounding areas. The draft master plan, in which five Oromia towns were incorporated in 2008 as special zones, has a two phase development plan for the region – 10 and 25 years – during which time the proposed projects include an underground subway and waste treatment facilities for all.

Yet, even though the proposed plan is done in unison, it is totally a different matter when it comes to implementation, states Matewos Asfaw, general manager of the Addis Abeba and surrounding Oromia Special Zone integrated master plan project office.

The project office is established by the two administrations and is overseen by a board of 20 members, which includes seven officials from the two parties involved and the rest from the federal government and associations, according to the general manager.

The proposal for the new integrated master plan, which claims to have sustainability as the main ingredient, is based on the urban development policy proclamation 574/2000, which stipulates the different levels of urban planning and directions, according to the training of trainers manual presented in April 2014 at a meeting in Adama. Urban planning is a political, technical and legal process, including regional plans, environmental protection, social affairs coordination and integrated intercity development. It is a view which appears to have drawn its inspiration from an essay about urban planning by the World Academy of Science, Engineering & Technology, an international society of scholars engaged in scientific, engineering and technological research. Master plans are a tool to guide and manage the growth of cities in a planned manner, reads the essay. Otherwise people are trapped in a mess of urban problems and laissez-faire development with serious long term repercussions, according to this essay.

The economic base of early 20th century Addis Abeba was typical of a consumer city, where taxes and tributes were the principal source of income. In recent times, the City has a diversified economy, being the main centre of public administration, commerce, manufacturing, finance, real estate and insurance, according to a 2007 UN Habitat study. Thus, authors of the draft master plan highlight their desire to see the transition from an agriculture to industrialised economy as the main aim for the government’s urban plans; in the process creating a single economic unit.

This diversified economic activity and better infrastructure availability in the capital is what Daba Jilfesa, mayor of Burayu town, hopes his town will take advantage of during the implementation of the integrated master plan.

“Burayu is a town near the capital,” Daba says of his town, which is 15kms from Addis. “But so far, our road and transportation connection with the capital is very poor, even though our livelihoods are so interconnected.”

A town of 150,000 people, Burayu largely depends on its growing industrial base, but it has two kebeles that are agricultural. The other main economic sector in the town is its trading sector, which is dominated by transactions with the capital. Burayu, whose population has more than doubled in the last decade, is still using the narrow streets that were paved during the Italian occupation and the mayor blames a lack of capacity in planning for this.

A fire brigade is also among the basic services that the city lacks.

“Three factories were burnt down in this year alone, and fire brigades from the capital had to come to stop the blazes,” Daba said. “With proper planning with other cities, we can manage to have these types of services at a relatively low costs.”

He is optimistic that other problems, such as lack of access to better water, electricity and telephone services, will be easier to address through the new integrated plan.

Burayu does not have a hospital and there are too few schools. The town’s administration has recommended the construction of a hospital and university in Burayu and it is included in the proposed master plan, according to Daba.

“Addis Abeba should pull the surrounding area with it in its path to development,” says Daba.

Internationally, cities and towns prepare urban plans together and form regional planning associations, and yet they approve and implement their specific plans individually. Integrated planning is a global application, according to Ezana, who forwards examples like Nairobi, which has a metropolitan ministry that coordinates and plans investments and development endeavours in Nairobi proper and eight surrounding cities. American cities, such as Boston and Los Angeles, incorporate several surrounding towns in their plans too.

The proposed integrated plan envisions implementing different infrastructural projects, like road, water, electricity and telecoms, which can smooth economic operations in the planning area of the capital and towns on the outskirts. The plan also envisions having 10 five-star hotels by 2024 and this number is planned to reach 25 by 2040, while it aspires to have 10 international standard conference centres after 25 years.

Different investments in the area will enable the City to become among the top five tourist destinations in the world, according to the proposed plan. The plan also aspires to increase the tourist flow to the City to one billion dollars in 10 years, and to three billion by 2040. In the process, the planning area is expected to earn as much as five billion dollars from the sector – 10 times what it does now.

One hundred and sixty eight kilometres of roads are proposed to be constructed in the planning area in 10 years and an airport is planned to be constructed in Kusaye, in the Special Zone.

The plan envisions making parts of the Addis Ketema and Kirkos districts, with the National Theatre somewhere in the centre, the financial district for the city. The locality around the La Gare train station in Kirkos District and the surrounding area will be the transport hub for the planning area. Administratively, it plans to divide Addis Abeba into 15 sub cities, from the 10 that it has now.

There is also a plan to build 80km of light railway by 2024 and to add another 93km of subway by 2040. By that time, the plan intends to restrict vehicles older than 20 years from entering into the city.

The share of industry from the overall economic activity of the planing area will increase to 45pc in 25 years, from the 24pc that it stands at now, according to the plan.

Currently, 28pc of the population in the aria lives below the poverty line, which the master plan expects to be halved in 10 years time, while per capita income of the dwellers increases to 5,000 dollars in 25 years, from the 323 dollars that it is now. And the unemployment rate will subside to less than six percent by 2040, from the 25pc it stands at now, by creating one million jobs in the non-agriculture sectors, if things go according to the plan.

The plan also looks forward to a 75pc share of the private sector in the economy, while providing two million houses to urbanites in 25 years – from the less than 200,000 that it stands at currently. By 2032, the plan envisions redeveloping 10,000ha of land in the urban centres of the capital. But this will be accompanied by increasing the size of green areas, reaching nine square metres per capita space after 25 years, from the less than one metre square per capita currently available. The agriculture sector in the planning area is expected to be 100pc mechanised at the end of the timeframe for the plan.

But not everything is as smooth as it seems. It is economically wise to plan for projects like waste treatment and land fill sites on a metropolitan level, but these projects have negative externalities to towns such as Dukem – one of the five towns in the special zone, where these projects are proposed to be located. There ought to have been discussions and negotiations on what they would get in return, according to Ezana. Waste treatment areas should have buffer zones from populated areas, according to experts on the area who closely follow up the plan.

In the absence of officials explaining to the public the details of the proposed master plan, experts such as Ezana have reservations about the process and lack of participation during its preparation.

“The board should have included more technical people and consulted mid-level bureaucrats from the administrations, in particular from the Oromia special zone,” Ezana told Fortune.

He would argue planning has become a political issue not a technocratic manoeuvre any more, and a planner these days should just facilitate negotiations based on his research,  for the smooth flow and implementation of the proposed plan.

“Addis Abeba has expanded for the last 100 years. Since 1994, the size of the city has almost doubled,” says Ezana. “I wouldn’t be surprised if people assume that the capital will swallow the surrounding areas; but I don’t think this will happen.”

An error in planning that left experts dumbfounded, for instance, is that industries that should not be together have been lumped together, such as chemical factories with agro-processing. Rather, it would be better to cluster them in different types of industries; the urban planning experts point out.

Nonetheless, the general manager of the Project Office sees the proposed master plan as a work in progress presented to the public for dialogue and debate, before suggestions and comments are incorporated for final approval by the administrations of the two parties.

The proposed plan has good things, such as the urban hierarchy it introduced in the country, dividing the nation in to five regions, with major cities as the centres, experts notice. But the transport system included in the plan has no major new projects, as they are rather the expansion of already existing undertakings.

Implementation of the plan should take into consideration the interests of farmers in the planning area and compensation fees should be reasonable, especially for those that will make way for private investments, according to Ezana.

“In fact, the farmers themselves should negotiate for the price of their lease right and they should be guaranteed housing in the immediate vicinity of their prior location and should not simply be pushed away,” the lecturer argues.

An office that works on assisting the farmers on the process of transition from agriculture to other livelihoods should be established, as they should not always be farmers and they will not be, Ezana says, although points of disagreements in the plan could be reviewed by hiring consultants.






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