Archive for the ‘Ethiopia’Category

Comparisons

It’s hard for me to experience Nigeria without comparing it – mentally, and probably too often, verbally, with Ethiopia. Or rather, comparing Abuja to Addis, since my experience in each country has been centered on the capital. A few thoughts with a broad brush stroke: compared to Addis, Abuja is hotter (lower altitude), the roads are much better (oil wealth? planned city?), the taxis and most cars are newer (less massive import taxes?), the driving is much more aggressive (cars that can actually go fast + fast roads), the upscale grocery stores have amazing selection (more Nigerian buying power?), and security and crime are much greater, ever-present concerns. The music is better (sorry, Teddy Afro) and the conversation louder. The international scene here is more British, more male, and – especially outside of Abuja – more ensconced in all-encompassing compounds called “life camps” run by big foreign oil and construction companies that, like NGOs, often have 3-letter acronym names that have long outlived their original meaning.

02

07 2013

Do they know it's Christmas? No, because it isn't.

Remember “Do they know it’s Christmas?” That’s right, the 1984 hit song intended to raise money for famine victims in Ethiopia.  If that’s not ringing a bell (See what I did there?) then here’s the video:

You probably didn’t get very far, so here are some of the inane lyrics:

And there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas time
The greatest gift they’ll get this year is life
Where nothing ever grows, no rain or rivers flow
Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?

In addition to reinforcing all sorts of stereotypes about Africa, this video gets one very important thing wrong: Do they know it’s Christmas time? No, they don’t, because Ethiopians are Orthodox Christians and don’t celebrate Christmas until January 7th. So next time someone says they love this song, you now have an annoying know-it-all response to shut them down — which you can consider your holiday gift from this blogger. Merry Christmas!

[On a more serious note, Ethiopia has made huge strides on food security since the fall of the Derg. If you want to read more on that, MoreAltitude (an aid blogger who recently relocated to Addis) has this take.]

21

12 2012

Friday photos: Simien Mountains panoramas

Sunset panorama made from seven photos stitched together — taken from a ridge above Geech Camp in the Simien Mountains (click for higher resolution version):

And a daytime panorama from somewhere below Sankaber Camp:

14

12 2012

Friday photos: Gelada baboons

The Simien Mountains in Ethiopia’s north are swarming with Gelada baboons (which aren’t actually baboons). Below are some photos I took of them over Thanksgiving break:

And an interesting fact about the mountains, from Wikipedia:

Although the word Semien means “north” in Amharic, according to Richard Pankhurst the ancestral form of the word actually meant “south” in Ge’ez, because the mountains lay to the south of Aksum, which was at the time the center of Ethiopian civilization. But as over the following centuries the center of Ethiopian civilization itself moved to the south, these mountains came to be thought of as lying to the north, and the meaning of the word likewise changed.

07

12 2012

Someone should study this: Addis housing edition

Attention development economists and any other researchers who have an interest in urban or housing policy in low-income countries:

My office in Addis has about 25 folks working in it, and we have a daily lunch pool where we pay in 400 birr a month (about 22 USD) to cover costs and all get to eat Ethiopian food for lunch every day. It’s been a great way to get to know my coworkers — my work is often more solitary: editing, writing, and analyzing data — and an even better way to learn about a whole variety of issues in Ethiopia.

addis construction

Addis construction site (though not probably not government condos)

The conversation is typically in Amharic and mine is quite limited, so I’m lucky if I can figure out the topic being discussed.  [I usually know if they’re talking about work because so many NGO-speak words aren’t translated, for example: “amharic amharic amharic Health Systems Strengthening amharic amharic…“] But folks will of course translate things as needed.  One observation is that certain topics affect their daily lives a lot, and thus come up over and over again at lunch.

One subject that has come up repeatedly is housing. Middle class folks in Addis Ababa feel the housing shortage very acutely. Based on our conversations it seems the major limitation is in getting credit to buy or build a house.

The biggest source of good housing so far has been government-constructed condominiums, for which you pay a certain (I’m not sure how much) percentage down and then make payments over the years. (The government will soon launch a new “40/60 scheme” to which many folks are looking forward, in which anyone who can make a 40% down payment on a house will get a government mortgage for the remaining 60%.)

When my coworkers first mentioned that the government will offer the next round of condominiums by a public lottery, my thought was “that will solve someone’s identification problem!” A large number of people — many thousands — have registered for the government lottery. I believe you have to meet a certain wealth or income threshold (i.e., be able to make the down payment), but after that condo eligibility will be determined randomly. I think that — especially if someone organizes the study prior to the lottery — this could yield very useful results on the impact of urban housing policy.

How (and how much) do individuals and families benefit from access to better housing? Are there changes in earnings, savings, investments? Health outcomes? Children’s health and educational outcomes? How does it affect political attitudes or other life choices? It could also be an opportunity to study migration between different neighborhoods, amongst many other things.

A Google Scholar search for Ethiopia housing lottery turns up several mentions, but (in my very quick read) no evaluations taking advantage of the randomization. (I can’t access this recent article in an engineering journal, but from the abstract assume that it’s talking about a different kind of evaluation.) So, someone have at it? It’s just not that often that large public policy schemes are randomized.

06

12 2012

Friday photo: Wenchi Crater Lake

Wenchi Crater Lake is a long-ish day trip from Addis Ababa. The former volcanic cone is filled with a lake and hiking trails, and there’s even a monastery on an island in the middle of the lake. Here’s a panorama shot from near the top of the trail, made from five photos stitched together (click for higher resolution):

26

10 2012

Friday photos: Meskel

Last week Ethiopia celebrated Meskel, a major holiday that commemorates the discovery of the “one true cross” on which Jesus was crucified. Meskel Square in Addis is the place to be — “meskel” means cross in Amharic.

Orthodox priests and actors surround the cross (yes, the thing that looks like a Christmas tree to American eyes):

Everyone brings candles, and at dusk they’re lit in a slow wave moving across the square:

The roar of the crowd grows until the cross is lit:

Documentation:

As the fire dies down the crowd scattered — but this drumming and singing circle stuck around for quite a while:

05

10 2012

Best billboard ever?

I have no idea whether this is an effective ad… but:

(Also note the address at the bottom: there’s no commonly-used system for designating addresses in Addis — or most road names for that matter — so directions often simply describe a general area close to some landmark.)

23

09 2012

Friday photos

On the drive to Jimma, the birthplace of coffee:

14

09 2012

Friday photos

These photos are of the construction site next to my office in Addis — the quality isn’t that great, but I still think they’re interesting. Some observations on this site:

  1. progress is slow
  2. manual labor is substituted for capital-intensive technology wherever possible
  3. the scaffolding is made by hand on site
  4. there’s absolutely no protective gear (no hard hats, no harnesses while hanging off the flimsy handmade scaffolding), and
  5. women are surprisingly well-represented (at least at this site).

07

09 2012