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Critiques on Abiy’s Park Development as Alerted by Jawar’s sharp knives

May 20, 2024

By Abe Lema

While Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s city park projects have potential benefits, such as urban beautification, tourism promotion, and recreational spaces for city dwellers, the critiques highlight significant concerns. These include the misallocation of resources, potential for political propaganda, limited reach and impact, sustainability issues, risks of corruption, social disruption, environmental trade-offs, and economic opportunity costs. Addressing these critiques requires a more balanced approach that prioritizes urgent socio-economic needs and ensures sustainable, inclusive development. Here’s an in-depth examination of these critiques:

  1. Resource Allocation and Prioritization

Misallocation of Funds: Critics argue that Ethiopia’s limited financial resources could be better spent on urgent needs. The country faces significant challenges, including:

  • Poverty:A large portion of the population lives in poverty, requiring substantial investment in poverty alleviation programs.
  • Healthcare:Many Ethiopians lack access to basic healthcare services, with high maternal and child mortality rates.
  • Education:There are deficiencies in the education system, including insufficient schools and educational materials, particularly in rural areas.
  • Infrastructure:Rural and urban areas both suffer from inadequate infrastructure, such as roads, electricity, and water supply. Investing in these areas could have more immediate and widespread benefits.
  1. Symbolism vs. Substance

Political Propaganda: The park projects are viewed by some as politically motivated, aimed at bolstering the government’s image both domestically and internationally. Critics suggest:

  • Showcasing Progress:The parks serve as visible symbols of modernization and progress, potentially diverting attention from deeper socio-economic problems.
  • Public Relations:These projects might be designed to win public approval and support, rather than addressing systemic issues that require long-term and less glamorous solutions.
  1. Limited Reach and Impact

Urban-Centric Development: The focus on developing parks in Addis Ababa and other urban centers is seen as neglecting the needs of the rural majority:

  • Rural Neglect:Ethiopia’s rural areas, where the majority of the population resides, face more severe socio-economic challenges and are not significantly impacted by urban beautification projects.
  • Inequitable Development:This urban-centric approach may exacerbate existing inequalities between urban and rural populations.
  1. Sustainability and Maintenance Concerns

Long-Term Viability: Ensuring the parks remain well-maintained and functional requires ongoing resources:

  • Economic Constraints:Given Ethiopia’s economic challenges, there is skepticism about whether the government can sustain these projects without diverting funds from essential services.
  • Maintenance Costs:The long-term costs of maintaining parks, including staffing, security, and upkeep, may strain the national budget.
  1. Corruption and Mismanagement Risks

Inefficiency and Transparency: Large infrastructure projects are often prone to corruption and inefficiency:

  • Financial Misuse:There are concerns about potential misallocation or embezzlement of funds designated for the parks.
  • Lack of Oversight:Insufficient transparency and oversight can lead to cost overruns and substandard implementation.
  1. Displacement and Social Disruption

Impact on Local Communities: The construction of large urban parks can lead to the displacement of residents and businesses:

  • Displacement:Communities, particularly those in informal settlements, may be forcibly relocated to make way for park development, disrupting lives and livelihoods.
  • Social Tensions:Such projects can exacerbate social tensions if displaced communities feel inadequately compensated or supported.
  1. Environmental Trade-offs

Potential Environmental Harm: While parks are intended to enhance urban green

spaces, their construction can sometimes involve significant environmental trade-offs:

  • Habitat Destruction:Clearing land for park development may destroy existing natural habitats and biodiversity.
  • Environmental Degradation:The construction process itself can cause pollution and long-term environmental harm if not managed sustainably.
  1. Economic Opportunity Cost

Alternative Investments: The financial resources directed towards park projects could be used for other initiatives with potentially higher returns on investment:

  • Job Creation:Investing in sectors like agriculture, manufacturing, or small businesses could create more employment opportunities.
  • Economic Growth:Developing infrastructure such as roads, ports, and telecommunications can stimulate broader economic development and improve the quality of life for more people.
  1. Public Perception and Support

Lack of Public Consultation: Critics argue that there is insufficient public consultation and involvement in these projects, leading to decisions that do not fully reflect the needs and preferences of the population:

  • Public Discontent:If the public perceives these projects as irrelevant or wasteful, it could lead to dissatisfaction and a lack of support for the government.
  • Community Involvement:Meaningful involvement of local communities in planning and decision-making processes is essential for the success and acceptance of such projects.
  1. Focus on Short-Term Gains

Immediate vs. Long-Term Needs: Critics argue that while parks may provide short-term benefits and visible improvements, they do not address long-term structural issues:

  • Sustainable Development:Long-term investments in healthcare, education, and infrastructure are seen as more sustainable and impactful for national development.
  • Systemic Solutions:Addressing systemic issues such as governance, economic inequality, and social justice requires long-term commitment and resources.


1 Comment

  1. Abiy and his team are working hard to trasnform Ethiopia and particularly Addis Ababa as its name implies. The park development will not only transform the tourism industry but also the socio-economic corridors in general. The result may not be seen in the near future but those with positive minds can even see now. The short signted and pessimist ctitic like you can not see at all and remain barking while the camels keep moving.

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