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Addis Ababa City Administration Conspiracy Theory for Migration-led Urbanization in Ethiopia

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.


6 thoughts on “Addis Ababa City Administration Conspiracy Theory for Migration-led Urbanization in Ethiopia”

  1. This is what looks like to be educated. Thank you for a quick response to the Conspirators in Addis Ababa. The funny thing is that since the advent of TPLF the city has not been administered by its residents. The political parties from other regions assigned the administrators. As far as I know the current mayor and her deputy came from Oromo and Amhara respectively. What a disgrace.
    Eskiner Nega was the one who tried to struggle against the status quo but he didn’t get the support he deserved.

  2. This is an article I liked. The author’s narratives are backed with indisputable statistics. I commend Obbo Tsegaye Tegenu for posting this article. If I may make my two pennies worth of a suggestion to my dear countryman would be to stay away from ethnic toned politics. I beg him to avoid terms that demonize a group of people using pejoratives like ‘Orommumaa’ and ‘Fano/Neftegna’. Use of such terms would not help further the accord for those upright people who produced us all. It will just muddy any discourse intended to benefit that glorious country.

  3. Dr. Tsegaye,

    Your point about conspiracy theories is interesting. Some of your substantive claims need to be substantiated, and others have erroneous (albeit unintended) implications. Here are some for your (re)consideration:

    If, as you say, the Ethiopian population doubles every 20 years, it must grow annually at 3.5%. This cannot be: The average growth rate has been about 2.5%, which gives a doubling time of 28 years.

    Although popular among the general public, the reasoning that mass poverty is caused by rapid population growth has been consistently rejected by economists and demographers alike. The causality is probably the other way around—families have more children because they are poor. Implication: development is the best contraceptive. The policy implication of your claim, other than recommending voluntary family planning, is scary: China’s draconian one-child policy and India’s (Ghandi’s) sterilization policy have proved distortionary socially, economically, and politically.

    After freezing in the early years of the 1975 land reform and the institutionalization of ethnic apartheid in 1995, internal migration to land-rich districts and major urban areas has indeed ticked up. Some of this churning has been driven by dislocations due to political violence, but much of it is a rational response to pull-push economic factors. Government land policy has effectively turned villages into holding pens for subsistence farmers whose livelihoods are becoming precarious with alarming speed.
    It is true that about half of Ethiopian urban growth comes from migrants, but the regions supplying the migrants are diverse—including Amhara, Oromiya, and SNNP. Unless you have different data to share with us, I have not seen any credible evidence that most migrants to AA are from ARS. Over the past four years, I would surmise that most migrants to the AA metro are probably from Oromiya (re: the odious project of demographic engineering is a reality rather than some conspiracy theory).

    Here’s what a somewhat dated 2013 World Bank study says:
    “The bulk of migration in Ethiopia happens within the boundaries of the regional states. For instance, of all migrants originating from Tigray, close to 70 percent went to another zone in Tigray. This increases to over 70 percent for migrants from Amhara and SNNPR and over 80 percent for migrants originating in Oromia. Migration to and from city administrations is more diverse, with most migrants in Addis coming from Amhara (38 percent) and Oromia (31 percent), and most migrants in Dire Dawa coming from Oromia (44 percent) and Somali (14 percent). Cities also mainly attract migrants from the same region. Of all recent migrants in Mekelle, over 80 percent came from other zones in Tigray region. The same is true for Bahir Dar (mainly from West Gojam and South Gondar), Hawassa (mainly from Sidama and Welayita), and Adama (mainly from Arsi and East Shoa). Addis Ababa is the exception, drawing in migrants from all over the country, except from the emerging regions. Migrants in Addis mainly hail from Gurage, South Wollo, North Shoa, and West Shoa.”


  4. Bisrat Lemessa Kabeta

    The Mayor’s allegation of a coup by people entering AA from other regions is a veiled assault on certain groups of people who are regularly denied access to the city. This is a false excuse for the city’s & Oromia region’s infringement on citizens’ human and political rights.

  5. Thank you for an enlighted and scienific presentation of the facts. It is a natural development and, that in huma history, people have migrated to the cities in search of a better life and employment. And Ethiopia is not different. The basis of the industrial developmemnt is what is called the reserve proletarian which migrates to the cities from the country side. That is the way the modern mega cities have developed. In the case of Ethiopian the myopic and ethinic policy worshiping politicians cannot see or accept such facts. May God help us to trail the right way.

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