Panel session: What policies would help to make Addis Ababa a great 21st century city?

Presenters:

  • H.E. Ato Newai Gebreab (Executive Director, Ethiopian Development Research Institute & Chief Economic Advisor to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia)

  • Alemayehu Seyoum Taffesse (Country Director, IGC)

  • Professor Sir Paul Collier (Director, IGC & University of Oxford)

  • Professor Tony Venables (Director, IGC & University of Oxford)

Dr Jones chaired the final session of the day, addressing key urbanisation challenges for Addis Ababa in the upcoming years such as affordable housing, mortgage markets, firm productivity, and transportation costs. The discussion kicked off by Dr Taffesse identifying important policy goals for the city government regarding the housing situation, primarily highlighting the need for clearer taxation principles and specific rules regarding production standards.  H.E Newai stressed the importance of functioning rental markets and Professor Collier further pointed out the need to increase the supply of landlords. The panellists also specifically addressed the question of how the mortgage market should be developed to make it readily available to people. The need to innovate and establish efficient solutions were reoccurring themes.

The session then touched upon firm productivity, asking what lessons have been learned so far and how the “productivity miracle” needed could be accomplished. Dr Taffesse pointed to infrastructure being one of the main tools to achieving such productivity, which lead the panellists to debate how the transportation costs in Addis Ababa could be reduced. Dr Venebles stressed the need to increase official land use and make land prices more efficient. The need for technical innovation in construction was also pointed out.

In the closing statements of the panel, Dr Collier stressed the immense need, as well as possibilities, to get urbanisation right by concluding that “if easy isn’t available, you’ve got to be serious”.  Dr Venebles raised the question of secondary cities and stressed the need for Ethiopia at large to address this issue going forward. Dr Taffesse pointed towards the looming risk of mismanagement and extensive polarisation, which is something Addis so far has avoided successfully. Lastly, H.E. Newai concluded the session by stressing the need to incentivise private sector real estate developers to build houses for the ordinary middle class, asserting that the prospects for industrialisation and urbanisation going forward look promising.

Summary written by Amanda Jinhage, Policy Economist