Addis Ababa – A City Just Like Others

An Ethiopian woman in a floral dress singing on stage

“They give us money to make themselves feel good, without realising whether we truly need it or not.”

The thriving business hub

Capital of Ethiopia. Elevated at 2,355 metres, Addis Ababa is home to 3.3 million people, the business hub of Ethiopia, hosting as many international companies as Montreal and Geneva.

On the flight here, there were more Asians than Africans on the plane. Most Asians are presumed to be Chinese due to the high Chinese investment in the country. China has been investing lots in many African countries. Their strategy is to build infrastructure and provide talents to aid the country to grow. The country, in return, will pay back a large sum to China once the project starts paying, or they have to give priorities to Chinese workers over local workers for their projects.

Are they grateful for this? I wouldn’t put it that way. They probably can’t achieve what they’ve achieved today without the aids from China. But they are also losing autonomy as a lot of economic decisions have to be in favour to China as part of the deal. There’s nothing as pure charity in the world. It’s always a give-and-take scenario.

African Union – The dream of uniting Africa

African Union, which consists of all 55 member states in Africa, was founded in 2002. The headquarter is now located in Addis Ababa, which funny enough, even the headquarter was built with the Chinese funds, as a gift from China.

“One Africa” is the goal of AU, a borderless Africa as their logo. Taking inspirations from EU, AU was founded with the goal to unite Africa, to be one strong borderless entity together. EU countries had gone through turmoil after the war, their unity made them strong and grow faster than ever. Building from this, AU wants to encourage its member states to put their differences and conflicts aside, to facilitate free flow of labour and capital, so Africa can grow as a whole.

Walking through the empty headquarter, with construction still going on in most parts of the building, astonished to be part of something great that’s about to begin. It’s like witnessing history at its birth.

In one of the major conference rooms, negotiations often took place to discuss memberships of new states before they got all 55 countries to sign on. Now, they use the conference to discuss how to collaborate and bring changes, to gradually open up borders.

Sitting inside the conference room made me feel like I was part of something great, and that everyone has a part in history, if they wish to change it.

History is made up of societal decisions, a society is made up of individual decisions. We are all part of history.

Future is not predictable. How many times have humans been surprised by how historical events played out? Maybe one day Africa will take back its glory and become the strongest, the most prosperous union in the world. We will see.

The nightlife with a live concert

Leaving AU, we went to a hotel for dinner in a posher neighbourhood. It was around sunset. I was leaning my head against the window, starring at the road thinking how different this place is than what I imagined.

Picturing it to be a run-down city with dust and dirt. Addis Ababa surely defied what the media had previously told me about Ethiopia.

Roads and pedestrian walkways were well-defined, traffic lights were in place, crossings were in good shape. Well-groomed and suited up workers were hurrying home as the sun sets. Kids in neat, clean school uniforms were holding hands with their mum, waving their little hands at me from the side of the road with excitement.

We felt welcome. Dinner was good and we listened to a live concert with a few drinks. The freedom of being a university student on a field trip.

Raising a glass with your professor doesn’t feel so awkward. You are not in a classroom, you are in Ethiopia.

Read the next chapter on how Ethiopia managed to fight off enemies and maintain uncolonised due to their geographical advantage.

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