Addis Ababa loosely translated means a ‘new flower’ and the capital city of Ethiopia is in many ways blooming like a flower. Known as the home to the African Union, formerly the Organization of African Union (OAU), Addis Ababa is the largest city in Ethiopia with a population of over 2.5 million and is often referred to as the capital of Africa because of its historical diplomatic and political significance to the African continent.
Founded in 1887, this sprawling, hospitable city is situated at the foothills of the Entoto Mountains has lots to see if one is visiting for pleasure and or business – lots of souvenirs from the signature white Ethiopian dresses with intricate trimmings to fashionable outfits mostly from Italy.
The city has is in the middle of a construction boom with lots of construction from
skyscrapers to condors and roads. The city is growing rapidly in modernity compared to other African cities. The city is undergoing a major construction boom, where the skyline suddenly has more halfway-done high-rise buildings than ever before, and new hotels are being built at a breakneck speed. Hotels, shopping centres and office complexes rise from where small shacks once stood.Infrastructure is improving to support them. Tall, incomplete buildings are visible as far as the eye can see. In addition to the construction boom, many of its roads are being expanded and redone.
The new African Union headquarters, built on the ruins of a maximum security prison, is the centerpiece of the Chinese influence. Built by the Chinese, with Chinese money, for Africa, the building spans 50,000 square metres and has more space than the AU has staff members. President after thankful president lined up at the opening of the new headquarters to thank the Chinese for the $200 million gift. And to top it off, the Chinese gave a further $100 million for the upkeep of the building.
Equatorial Guinea president Teodoro Obiang Nguema noted that the generous Chinese did not even blink when the AU handed over the building specifications; they just nodded and started flying in Chinese workers to get the job done in record time.
Chinese investment in Addis Ababa is bolder than anywhere else in Africa. You can’t drive for more than five minutes without seeing a massive banner in English and Mandarin celebrating the friendship between Ethiopia and China.
Seeing the construction boom, diaspora Ethiopians with swollen pockets are returning with an eye on investment. No wonder some people speculate that in some years to come, Addis will be the new Dubai of Africa, with eye catching architectural buildings – what with the structural transformation of the city, the skyscrapers going up; each with unique architectural designs. And it’s not just real estate that’s booming, but there is also the construction of a light rail around the city being carried out by a Chinese railway company, the likes of those found in European countries.
It is no wonder that Addis Ababa has made it to the top ten as one of the best cities to visit in 2013, published by the renowned Lonely Planet, a global travel guidebook. Mot to mention that the Ethiopian capital is number nine on the list with Puerto Iguazu of Argentina coming number 10, while San Francisco, California and Amsterdam in the Netherlands came first and second respectively.