A Stop in Addis



Addis Ababa in Ethiopia is home to 2.8 million people.  – and on this particular week in July, welcomed a few more visitors in Africa for the first time.

It is a sprawling city situated on an elevation of 2300m and has wonderful weather (approx. 22°C, breeze) during the day – with allowance for rolling blackouts, and lightening and thunderstorms at night because it’s rainy season (I’m okay with this tradeoff in absence of extreme heat).

The city is spirited as it is sprawling. The level of English is good and courtesy is present.  Arrival on a Tuesday morning, it struck me how many people roamed the streets and a Ethiopian friend in the city mentioned the high unemployment rate.  Easy to find jobs as day labourers in the construction boom happening in the city, but difficult to find skilled jobs as University graduates (with the increase in University-educated workers and slower development of a knowledge-based economy).

Based on conversational Q&A with local Ethiopians, I have been able to find out the following about healthcare provision: (difficult to even know the basics – alas, it is something Lonely Planet cannot help me with)

–       division of healthcare between public services (government provided) and private clinics

–       quality of care is superior in private clinics

–       private clinics are expensive and not everyone can afford them and access is low (esp. in rural communities outside of Addis)

–       doctors work both for public sector (gov’t) AND open their private practice on the side

–       incentives therefore for doctors are sometimes divided

–       there is only one cancer treatment hospital for the country (it is in Addis, the capitol) and it serves a population of 75 million

  • the external cost of traveling, lodging is high enough barrier for most not to even attempt the journey to Addis for treatment

–       government infrastructure is improving, with recent investments in dentistry and optometry services

This is all I found out on this short trip stopover in Addis. I look forward to learning more.

I learned people here value education, jobs and a sustainable living.  The living for the majority of the population is not easy – with monthly salaries for waitresses at base of 200-300 Birr per month ($20-$30) and day labourer construction workers making 30 Birr per day.

Here is where I also run into cognitive dissonance: If you google Addis Ababa accommodation as a tourist, a primary hit is “Sheraton Addis” – it is an oasis of a gem and probably one of the best premier Sheratons in the world and best hotels in Africa.  At first there is a shock of who will pay $500 USD per night per person at a place like this / directly contrasted with the tin corrugated roofs that lay next to the complex.  And then I learned today that the Sheraton provides jobs, and more importantly, jobs at international standard rates, and better rates than what you could earn before in Addis before it arrived.  To me, it all relates back to private sector development.  Business can have far reaching impact than just the bottom dollar. A Sheraton job in Addis means a good wage, prestige and provision for family.

Ethiopians who travel, study, work abroad echo a goal of helping Ethiopia create more jobs upon their return.  Not just financial donations – JOBS. It’s a city that wants to work, how we can help create more skilled jobs? Knowledge sector jobs? Harness this intellectual brainpower and make it sustainable?

This is a goal echoed in many developing world countries. Let’s think of solutions.

One more thing I learned – Injera (the Ethiopian pancake) is damn delicious.


Teanastellen. (the Amharic language is beautiful, but not easy)


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