First impressions

Flying in to Addis on Monday morning we flew over Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile and readily identifiable by its distinctive shape.  It was a nice reminder to me of the wealth of natural resources that this beautiful country has to offer.

Addis is a huge building site.  From the air you can see the impressive scale of the new buildings and roads that are springing up over this growing city (5 million people and growing).   I’ve been told be an infrastructure expert that the Ethiopians are managing this construction well, which is consistent with my impression of the government as well-organized, if a bit over-controlling.

Less reassuring is the thick layer smog (or is it just the dust of construction?) all over the lower parts of the city.  The air looks clearer in the surrounding hills.

And Addis is bustling. We ate last night in a restaurant filled with affluent Ethiopians. The man at the next table was using is Apple iPhone.  But the urban poor are being hard hit by the sharp rise in food prices, including Teff (the grain which is Ethiopia’s staple) – one friend noticed that the little group of people who meet on the street near our hotel to share a meagre breakfast has risen from about 5 people to about 15 in the last few weeks.

Published by Owen Barder

Owen is Senior Fellow and Director for Europe at the Center for Global Development and a Visiting Professor in Practice at the London School of Economics. Owen was a civil servant for a quarter of a century, working in Number 10, the Treasury and the Department for International Development. Owen hosts the Development Drums podcast, and is the author Running for Fitness, the book and website. Owen is on Twitter and

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