The liberal free market economy Ethiopia adopted under the reign of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Party (EPRDF) has been a start of the growth of the private sector. Under such an economy, major public and private companies (especially those operating in finance) access the bulk of money pumped into the market. Then, this huge money trickles down under small pours to the society at large. As has been evident in cities that have made the transition to metropolitan status, the skyline of Addis has welcomed high rising buildings serving as the headquarters of the elite companies in the country.
Clearly marking the path of the monetary waterspout on the ground, some sections of the city are adorned with glass sealed architectural monuments symbolizing the highest regard we have come to accord money. The area adjacent the monetary waterspout is, however, left in shambles as remnants of an older city sneak in their corroded rooftops to an otherwise glittering skyline.
The sharp contrast is telling of the socio-economic gap that is unfolding before our eyes. The seemingly unnatural range between the squalid houses and the world of glitter nearby is a mirror reflection of the lives of Eyob Mengiste and Abel Tekalign – names changed upon request.
Eyob Mengiste is a 16 years old shoe shiner. He wakes up early in the morning on a daily basis and proceeds to his work spot in front of Bole Medhanealem. Despite being one of the top students in his class, Eyob was obliged to drop out of school three years ago when he was a fifth grader. “My father and mother divorced when I was a child; so, my mother had to raise me and my three sisters alone,” he explains. Eyob’s mother, Adanech Gizaw, makes a living out of selling potatoes, tomatoes, and other vegetables on the side of the road. As her income could not cover basic living expenses such as rent and food, Eyob had to start generating whatever little income he could make.
On the contrary, Abel Tekalign is a marketing director at one of the freight forwarding companies in Addis Ababa. His monthly income is ETB60,000. He owns a luxurious car, a G+1 house around Summit, and sends his 3 children to an expensive private school.
The juxtaposition is striking. One sees street children wandering about, sniffing glue to beat hunger and/or get high, sleeping on road sides come rain or shine with fancy and luxurious cars swiveling by their side on the city’s asphalt roads. Metrosexual men go into five-star hotels to dine ignoring the plea for help from a mother who desperately tries to win the pity of passers-by to feed her children. Further on, one witnesses high rise buildings sharing a wall with mud houses. As notable indicators of a city in transition, Addis seems to have rolled up its sleeves to do away with these conflicting traits and spread the money waterspout to cover all its corners. For people who know Addis well, that would not be an impossible feat to achieve. After all, it is a unique city in which churches and mosques share a wall.
9th Year • August 30 – September 30 2020 • No. 90