Tsegaye Tegenu, PhD
March 15, 2023
In its regular session of 6 months performance report, on March 12, 2023, the Addis Ababa City Administration has discussed the peace and security of the city. In the performance report, the wave of internal migration to the city was presented as a secret plot organized by powerful forces to covertly overthrow the elected government. The internal migrants belonged to a group of ethnic conspirators. The “evidence” shows that those arrested during peaceful celebration of national holidays are mainly internal migrants coming from Amhara and Southern regions.
Urbanization in Ethiopia is formed by internal migration. This is an established fact. There are over 900 towns and major cities in Ethiopia and all of them are founded as a result of internal migration. Urban study on census data on places of birth and duration of residence shows that rural-urban migration is the driving force of urbanization in Ethiopia. Migrants (population not born in towns and cities) constituted almost half of the urban population for the past forty years and the majority of them came directly from rural areas. (see Urbanization in Ethiopia: Study on Growth, Patterns, Functions and Alternative Policy Strategy).
It is only in developed countries, where manufacturing production and consumption is concentrated that internal migration ceases to be a driving force of urbanization. And, Ethiopia has no self-sustained industrial growth centers to absorb the rural surplus labor in its own proximate location. Because of the demographic and youth bulge pressure in the countryside and subsistence nature of the rural economy, the youth are forced to migrate to towns and cities, even if cities are not attractive. They have no options; they are forced either for internal migration or outmigration to Arab and African countries.
While migration-led urbanization is a fact, why use conspiracy theory now. There are different reasons. Some would like to conceive the internal migration process in the country as a logical explanation of the current ethnic conflicts in the country. These people used the theory to manipulate people for political or financial reasons. Others in the administration are suspicious of the internal migrants and consider them as beneficiaries of a plot they conceived. Those with superficial analysis who see only symptoms of the problem can easily buy the conspiracy theory. For whatever reasons, once it has taken its root, conspiracy theory can grow quickly and becomes hard to refute it. It is therefore necessary to stop the spread of a conspiracy theory.
One way of stopping the use of conspiracy theory is discussing the root causes of the internal migration, in this case migration to Addis Ababa from the Amhara region. According to the report most internal migrants are coming from the Amhara region. Why?
As we all know the Amhara region is affected greatly by the internal civil war. The destruction of private and public property is worth billion birr. Population displacement have also reached a high level in the region. About 40 percent of the adult population living in the war-torn areas belong to the age group of 15-29. What is the fate of the youth where there is mass destruction of properties, massive scarcity of resources, and high rate of unemployment. Internal migration is not a choice but a necessity.
The Amhara region is relatively poor in labor absorbing manufacturing industries compare to other regions such as Oromiya. According to According to CSA 2011 Medium and Large Manufacturing Industry (MLMI) survey report, 40% of the existing MLMI of the country are located at Addis Ababa, the highest proportion among the regions, followed by Oromiya and S.S.N.P that constitute 21% and 13% respectively. Amhara region stands at fourth rank in terms of number of established industries as shown in the figure.
In terms of capital investment for the established industries, Addis Ababa constitutes 6.9 billion, Oromiya 6.2 billion, Tigray 2.59 billion and Amhara 1.3 billion that take the rank from 1st to 4th respectively. Amhara region is the scecond largest populus region in Ethiopia, but it is the least in manufacturing industrial development as comapared to the major regions of Ethiopia. The total capital invested and the number of employement generated by the established industries are also less when compared to the other major regions of the country.
The internal migration of the youth from Amhara region to Addis Ababa is not a surprise. Unless the country develops a long-term strategy of self-sustained industrial growth and balanced regional development, the problem will stay with us for decades to come. Conspiracy theory is not a roadmap of prosperity.
Please share the article “Urbanization in Ethiopia: Study on Growth, Patterns, Functions and Alternative Policy Strategy” to Addis Ababa City Administrators. This article has received one of the top ten most downloaded online publication of Uppsala University database. It has got over 74000 downloads in the past seven years, an average of 10500 downloads in a year. The article has raised the visibility and acceptance of a framework for analysis of migration-led urbanization in Ethiopia and suggested solutions. There is no need and reason for the administration to fall on conspiracy theory.