Economic change and community relocation in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

By Alula Pankhurst and Agazi Tiumelissan

Childrens development and well-being are profoundly shaped by macro-economic, social and environmental processes, including economic growth or crisis, changes in social values, and expansion of social policies, and environmental shocks.

In Ethiopia economic growth has been averaging around 11 per cent annually since 2003/4, with the proportion of the population living in poverty falling to around 30 per cent from around 45 per cent ten years previously. However, following the global economic crisis Ethiopia also experienced high inflation, which peaked at 64 per cent in July 2008. A recent study we carried out with one of the  Young Lives communities in Addis Ababa shows how processes of economic growth and re-development, as well as food price inflation have affected children and their families.

Bertukan* is a community in the heart of urban Addis Ababa, with a population of roughly 14,000, which is mixed in terms of ethnicity and religion and has a high incidence of female-headed households. The area is located close to a major vegetable and fruit market and within walking distance of the city's main general market. Most households rely on informal sector activities, including street vending, petty trade, daily labour carrying goods, and selling vegetables, fruit, and cooked food and beverages in the market or from their homes. Community members report that three major changes have affected households and children in Bertukan during the past five years: increased food prices, plans to re-locate the market, and a major building programme as the area is due to be demolished and re-developed.

Inflation and particularly sharp increases in food prices have affected poorer households particularly badly. Fifty-six per cent of households in Bertukan said that they had been affected 'very much' and only 3 per cent said they had not been affected at all.

A mother said: 'Even the price of a needle has increased from 5 cents to 50 cents, and one kilo of coffee has increased from 12 to 150 birr'. The main coping strategies employed by households which experienced shocks were reduced food consumption (37 per cent), taking on additional work (20 per cent) and reducing food quality (18 per cent). The brother of one of the study children said

"Before, we would eat meat twice or three times a week but now we eat it once in a week or once in two weeks. Before, we used 25 kilos of pure teff (cereal grain) for making injera (Ethiopian flatbread) but now we mix teff, rice and wheat to make injera because the price of teff has gone up."

Another caregiver said: 'I also take some other [work] such as washing clothes in addition to my regular work.' Other coping strategies included children starting work (4 per cent of households) or changing from fee-paying private schools to government schools (4 per cent of households). Other strategies involved migration for work, including abroad, and partitioning houses to rent out rooms to earn some extra income.

To add to the uncertainties experienced by families in Bertukan, the plan to demolish and move the food market is likely to have a massive impact on the livelihood opportunities of most of the Young Lives households, who rely on activities linked to the market.

Finally, the residential area is among those that are due for demolition and urban renovation to stimulate business and provide housing. Three blocks of flats have already been built on the outskirts of the city, but 82 per cent of caregivers said they could not afford the high down-payments being required of tenants, nor the monthly rent. Residents have been told they will have to leave and adjacent areas have already been demolished.

While this has not yet happened in Bertukan, people are unsure about the future.

*Note: we use pseudonyms for all the communities and children taking part in our research.


This is one of six community case studies included in a new Young Lives paper Changing Children's Lives, which explores how where children live and how their communities are changing are important factors in the opportunities open to children and the risks they face.

See also:

Alula Pankhurst and Agazi Tiumelissan (2013) Living in Urban Areas due for Redevelopment: Views of Children and their Families in Addis Ababa and Hawassa, Working Paper 105, Oxford: Young Lives.

Pankhurst, A. and A. Tiumelissan (2013) Moving to Condominium Housing? iews about the Prospect among Children and their Families in Addis Ababa and Hawassa, Working Paper 106, Oxford: Young Lives.