Addis Ababa's Transformation

The Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa is going through one of the fastest rates of urban growth in the world. In Amharic ‘Addis Ababa’ means ‘new flower’, and Menelik II founded the city at the end of the 19th century. For much of its history, Addis was a small town, at the centre of an ancient empire.

Today Addis is experiencing a rapid rate of urban transformation, which will see its 4.5 million population double to 8.1 million by 2040. This highlights UN’s estimates that Africa’s global share of urban dwellers will double to 25% in the next 35 years.

Last week, Barack Obama became the first American president to visit Addis Ababa. He addressed leaders at the African Union, a large glistening glass edifice built with Chinese labour and financing. His visit underscores how far Ethiopia has come – from the 1984 famine, which cemented the nation in the West’s popular imagination, to the fastest growing economy on the continent.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) ranks Ethiopia as among the top five growing economies in the world. Ethiopia has experienced a decade of continuous growth in GDP, averaging 10.3% – although the economy is expected to slow a bit this year to 8.5% and pick up slightly in 2016 to 8.7%.