These days, Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa looks like one giant construction site. Massive cranes dominate the Addis Ababa skyline and heavy construction trucks roam this city of more than five million people. The city is also increasingly becoming a melting pot of cultures, be it African or international!
Take the city’s main airport Addis Ababa Bole International Airport as an example. Handling more than ten million passengers in the past year alone, you will find people from every race and creed departing or arriving. And nowadays it is not hard to find restaurants, shopping malls, playgrounds and nightclubs that cater to the needs of the fast-growing expatriate community. Thanks to the presence of a number of continental and international organisations, must-see historical sites, its perfect climate, the relative peace and a fast-developing infrastructure, Addis Abbab has a growing appeal for many.
Many commentators think Addis Ababa has become the third biggest diplomatic city after New York and Geneva. It is now the seat of the African Union (AU) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), among other influential institutions. Ethiopia’s last monarch, Emperor Haile Selassie, was among the founding fathers of the AU, alongside such figures as Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere and Gamal Abdul Nasser.
Addis Ababa’s Pan- African vibe is very much in evidence, according to many. In nightclubs people are dancing to Nigerian or South African music and many Ethiopian songs have Western and Southern African beats.
Together with Liberia, Ethiopia remains the only African nation that has never been colonised and the country fought off Italian invaders in both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This has helped keep its identity intact. When Africans tried to come together and fight their colonisers, Ethiopia was a driving force. Addis Ababa is home to the UNECA headquarters and is often referred to as “the Political Capital of Africa.”
The presence of such a large number of foreign diplomatic missions and expatriates together with Ethiopia’s open-door policy for Africans means that there is frequent interaction between Ethiopians, people from the rest of Africa and beyond.
Citizens of this landlocked country are now increasingly embracing other Africans as their own. It has become the norm to see Ethiopians opening their doors to other Africans and there is an increase in the number of Ethiopians marrying other Africans, especially those from neighbouring countries.
Ethiopia is also currently host to one of the largest number of refugees in the continent. According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), Ethiopia is home to some 800,000 refugees from across Africa, mainly from South Sudan, Eritrea and Somalia. In effect this means more interaction between Ethiopians and other Africans.
The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) said Ethiopia is forecast to join the ‘Big Five’ African nations in the continent over the next 25 years, thereby increasing the prospect of a more robust African influence in Addis Ababa and elsewhere in the country.
“There will be a change in power capabilities of Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Nigeria and South Africa over the next 25 years. Of these countries, Ethiopia and Nigeria are forecast to increase their power capabilities. Of the Big Five, two currently punch above their weight; one that is rising, Ethiopia, and another whose growth is stagnant, South Africa,” an ISS 2015 publication reads.
This, again, means Ethiopia’s influence over Africa in terms of culture, economy and power will increase in the years to come. However, it remains to be seen if this East African nation can maintain its track record in upholding and cherishing African values.