Hailu Sitotaw, a mini-bus taxi driver who has been
plying the Mexico Square - St. Gabriel Church route
for more than two years now, used to earn a total
income of 210 Br daily from eight round trips. Since
the start of the construction for the expansion of
the 44Km AU Headquarters - Mekanisa Ring Road in
October 2007, his income has declined by 100 Br.
The rough detour that has been created to allow for
its construction to continue stretches from
Roosevelt Street, across Pushkin Monument (Square),
via Egypt Street to the end of Guinea-Bissau Street.
It has seriously affected the formerly knotty
traffic flow of the route, such that Hailu’s daily
eight round trips have been reduced to between four
“Even without the addition of the construction
complications, this road had serious enough traffic
jams,” he told Fortune. “The construction
makes it even worse.”
Hailu’s five trips on that route now mostly generate
110 Br and the entire amount goes to the taxi owner.
The average 100 Br extra income Hailu and his
assistant (Weyala) used to enjoy as they were
entitled to it can hardly be earned now.
Hailu and his assistant are just two of the
residents in Addis Abeba affected by the more than
15 major ongoing road constructions in different
parts of the city.
In July 2008 alone, Addis Abeba City Roads Authority
(AACRA) - in charge of constructing and
administering the roads - signed 11 contracts with
different companies. These were for six road
constructions and five road design projects worth
1.4 billion Br.
In the current budget year, the authority plans to
work on 132 road projects with a 1.6 billion Br
budget. The projects include design works,
construction and maintenance of asphalt and gravel
roads and drainage works.
Though many agree that the massive road
constructions across the city are basic development
works, they also criticize the impacts of this
progress that experts say AACRA has not taken into
“The alternative to reduce the social and
environmental impacts of such projects is not often
included in the planning or feasibility study,” a
lecturer of Economics at the Addis Abeba University
(AAU) told Fortune. “There is no detailed
planning, except for the design and construction of
The noise, dust level, and the discomfort as a
result of the constructions have impact on
businesses and residents around the constructions
sites, according to the lecturer, who is quite
familiar with AACRA’s operations.
Officials at AACRA do not deny that the projects
have not included impact assessments.
“We mainly focus on the importance, design and
construction of the roads,” Fekade Haile (Eng.),
general manager of the authority told Fortune.
Even though residents share Fekade’s view that the
road constructions are foundations to the city’s
growth and future solutions for its traffic woes,
most are much more concerned with the immediate
impacts. They are troubled by the difficulties they
face if they have to go to places they want to
across these roads bulldozed for either major
expansion works, facelifts, maintenance, or
inclusion in the Ring Road.
Troubled by the same AU Headquarters - Mekanisa road
construction is Shewit Victorio, 21, a student at
the Addis Abeba University, Faculty of Journalism
and Communications, who has to commute using public
transportation to the faculty and back.
Having to wait for a long time at the nearby taxi
rank for mini-buses plying different routes is
something she has got used to because she has been
using the same route for the past three years. The
long wait is because the rank is usually crowded.
She has to travel all across the city from her house
to Piassa, Abune Petros Campus, early in the morning
not to be late for her class that regularly starts
at 8:30am. But she rarely makes it on time.
“The taxis do not want to come to Mekanisa because
of the traffic jam,” Shewit said. “I usually run
late for class.”
The 44Km road construction, which is being
undertaken by the China Roads and Bridge
Construction Company (CRBC), and the other projects
have problems and negative impacts that add to the
despair of residents, taxi drivers and other
business owners around the areas.
The City Roads Authority had awarded this project to
Berta Construction, a local construction company, in
2006. Not long after, it was taken away from Berta
as the authority alleged that the construction firm
had a low level of performance ability than
Other major problems caused by these massive and
city re-building like projects, which are normally
supposed to be considered by the public as
productive works, are the disruption in telecom,
electricity and water supply services.
Fekade attributes the delay in the reinstallation of
these facilities to the unavailability of materials
“Even though the houses and other establishments on
the right-way-off sites of some of the projects have
been knocked down and we have completed preparations
to start the projects, the need to import the
equipment delays the work,” Fekade explained. “We
are aware of the impacts such road constructions can
have on the public, even if they were to be
completed within deadlines, let alone being
Lack of proper and safe alternative routes and
delays in construction periods are not unique to the
Mekanisa road project. Unlike the case for
cross-country roads, an apparent poorly calculated
prioritization is also an issue of concern for the
projects underway in Addis Abeba, according to
“At the federal level, there is prioritization based
on multiple criteria, such as whether the roads link
regions to the port,” the lecturer said.
But authorities at AACRA argue that all they are
doing is properly planned.
“If we had not planned and prioritized which
constructions should come first, or which should
wait, there would have been projects and bulldozing
all over the city,” Fekade said.
The authority has given priority to a 275Km road in
Addis Abeba and claims to have started working on
the design of the constructions to be carried out.
“For instance,” Fekade explains, “we are working on
the Gotera Interchange and the Sar Bet - Pushkin
Monument - Mekanisa road projects, while leaving the
road that links the two. What would happen if we
also started working on the Pushkin - Kera - Gotera
Interchange route at the same time?”
In fact, what is going on in Addis Abeba is part of
an ambitious bigger national plan to boost the
current 44,000Km national road network to 100,000
When ERA was established in 1951, the total road
network in Ethiopia amounted to 6,400Km and was
built mainly during the Italian occupation of
1936-1941, according to the Road Sector Development
Programme (RSDP) III draft. By 1997, the road
network had grown to 26,550Km, of which 3,708Km was
The RSDP I - the first phase of the government’s
strategy for achieving its policy objectives in the
road sector - was implemented from 1997 to 2002, and
its continuation, RSDP II, realized from 2002-2007.
The road network had been stretched to 39,477Km by
November 2006, when the RSDP III draft was prepared.
The Federal Government claims that recognizing the
importance of road transport in supporting
socio-economic growth, and in meeting poverty
reduction objectives led to the launch of the RSDP.
To address the constraints in the road sector
related to restricted road network coverage and low
standards, the government formulated the ten-year
The first five years of the programme (RSDP I),
1997-2002, was officially launched in September 1997
and was completed in June 2002. RSDP II was launched
in July 2002 and went through to June 2007.
Accordingly, RSDP III has been under implementation
since July 2007. The third phase aims to upgrade
483Km main roads, undertake maintenance on 3,428Km
main link roads and construct 2,083Km new roads. It
also includes seasonal maintenance on 5,816Km roads
and regular maintenance on every road.
Perhaps due to lack of such detailed planning and
calculated prioritization, AACRA simply seems to
work on the ambitious plan of networking one part of
the city to the other. But that has consequences
which arise from the subsequent difficulty to focus
on limited and selected projects and finalize them
on time with the required standard.
case in point is the road and bridge construction
that starts from the turn of Dejazmach Baltcha Aba
Nefso Street - also known as Abinet Coca-Cola Road -
to Tor-Hailoch (Armed Forces) Hospital. Four years
after the project for the 800m road started,
construction and maintenance is still going on along
parts of it that were finalized earlier, but had
started to crack.
Another construction site which has been a cause of
inconvenience for residents as well as transport
users is the expansion on the 2.5Km road from Abenet
Hotel, off the Uganda Street, to the Tekle Haimanot
In fact, this project has proved a very challenging
one for the project owner AACRA, the contractor CRBC,
the Ethiopian Telecommunications Corporation and the
Addis Abeba Water and Sewerage Authority (AAWSA), as
progress has been stalled by the alleged mass theft
of materials by some unscrupulous people from the
villages along the now expanding road.
Residents, on the other hand, complain about the
difficulties they are facing as they are forced to
live without water and telephone services for
The complaint from drivers, however, is the lack of
a suitable alternative route.
Indeed, the biggest road project the city has ever
seen, the one next to Ring Road, is the major
upgrading of the Meskel Square - Saris Ring Road,
which includes the construction of the Gotera
Interchange. Upon finalization, the road is expected
to provide the city great relief from the
decades-long traffic woes in that part of the
Like many of the road projects in the city, this one
has been affecting a large section of the public.
Now that the complicated bridges are near
completion, the project is stretching out across
both sides of the road as houses are demolished and
existing roads bulldozed - something akin to
aggressive formation. As eager as they are too see
the road finalized, residents are concerned with the
time it has taken so far, that which it is
anticipated to continue for, and, in the interim,
the discomfort they have been going through.
The plan to increase the networked road
infrastructure in the city has been the assignment
for years now. Having to deal with many road
construction projects in a context where there are,
in some cases, no detours seems to have toughened
the challenges for both AACRA and the city
The City Government of Addis Abeba is working on
road network expansion projects in a bid to raise
the current seven percent of road network to 12.8pc
by 2011, according to its five-year strategic plan.
For the 2008/2009 budget year, AACRA has plans to
increase the current city road coverage to 2,537Km.
The authority has allocated 1.6 billion Br for the
construction and upgrading of roads in the current
Within the budget year, it targets to undertake a
total of 43 new road construction and upgrading
projects; 28 of them to be undertaken by AACRA,
while the remaining will be given to contractors.
Despite the present hassles due to the demolition
and reconstruction of roads in almost every corner
of the city, residents like Hailu and Shewit,
nonetheless, hope that in a few years’ time, the
traffic flow and road network may witness major