ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia—From atop Mount Entoto, which rises 10,500 feet above sea level and draws thousands of pilgrims annually as one of this country’s most revered spiritual sites, it is impossible to look upon the sprawling capital below without sensing both the burden of Ethiopia’s history and the promise of its future.
Addis Ababa, meaning “new flower” in Amharic, has been shaped by forces both internal and external since its founding in 1887. They include a devastating 16-year civil war and communist tyranny, multiple foreign invasions, and chronic cycles of drought, flood and famine that contributed to more than a million deaths since 1970.
Today, 24 years since its last government overthrow and 30 years since its last crippling famine, the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia is enjoying relative peace and prosperity. Those conditions have helped Addis Ababa emerge as one of Africa’s political and economic superhubs alongside Johannesburg, Nairobi and Accra.
Unlike many of its sub-Saharan neighbors, however, which have embraced economic growth at the expense of environmental protections, Ethiopia has embarked on one of the world’s most ambitious green growth and climate mitigation programs.
Nothing like it has been tried before, much less in one of the world’s largest and poorest nations.
“No other African country has even begun to make the level of commitment that Ethiopia has in reducing emissions,” Robert Mukiza, Ethiopia country director for the Global Green Growth Institute, said in a recent telephone interview from Addis. His organization is working with the government to help implement sustainability programs, including elements of Ethiopia’s Growth and Transformation Plan.