Egypt said that it is willing to resume negotiations with Sudan and Ethiopia over the filling of a controversial mega-dam that has been a source of tension between all three Nile basin countries.
“Egypt is always ready to enter into negotiations and participate in upcoming meetings ... to reach a fair, balanced and comprehensive agreement,” the foreign ministry said.
The ministry said the agreement would have to take into account “Egypt’s water interests as well as those of Ethiopia and Sudan”.
Cairo’s thawing stance comes after Sudanese Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok held a virtual meeting with his Ethiopian counterpart Abiy Ahmad earlier Thursday to hammer out a deal.
The online meeting comes after Addis Ababa said it would not delay filling the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which it began constructing in 2011.
In April, Ahmad proposed proceeding with the “first stage filling” that would collect 18.4 billion cubic metres of water in the dam’s reservoir over two years.
But both Egypt and Sudan fear the reservoir, which has a capacity of 74 billion cubic metres, will trap their essential water supplies.
Hamdok and Abiy’s talks were the first after a diplomatic spat that broke out between Egypt and Ethiopia reached the UN Security Council.
Filling and operating the dam “would jeopardise the water security, food security, and indeed, the very existence of over 100 million Egyptians, who are entirely dependent on the Nile River for their livelihood,” Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said in a letter to the UN Security Council dated May 1.
In a response dated May 14, Ethiopian Foreign Minister Gedu Andargachew accused Egypt of being obstructionist.
“Ethiopia does not have a legal obligation to seek the approval of Egypt to fill the dam,” Gedu said.
Egypt wants Ethiopia to endorse a draft agreement emerging from the talks earlier this year facilitated by the US Treasury Department, which stepped in after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sissi put in a request to his ally US President Donald Trump.
But Ethiopia skipped the most recent round of those talks and denies any deal was agreed upon.
Cairo’s heavily worded letter to the Security Council raised the spectre of the possibility of armed conflict stemming from the dam deadlock.
The decision by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to postpone the elections in Ethiopia has created a constitutional crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic is the context for this but not the cause.
The Ethiopian government decided to postpone the scheduled elections for an unlimited time as a result of the pandemic. But this extension comes with a unique problem, what the authorities are now calling a constitutional crisis.
The five-year term of the federal and regional legislatures, as well as their administrations, will expire on September 30. This brings about a distinct challenge.
Beyond September 30, who will have the mandate to govern until an election can be held?
The ruling party presented four possible scenarios to circumvent the constitutional crisis: dissolving parliament; declaring a state of emergency; amending the constitution; and seeking a constitutional interpretation.
Of the four options, the ruling party was partial to constitutional interpretation. Parliament endorsed this on May 5, 2020. They have asked the House of Federation to issue an interpretation within a month. Most opposition parties with significant constituencies have rejected the decision.
The Oromo Federalist Congress and its six coalition parties have rejected it and called for a dialogue to find a political solution. The Tigray People’s Liberation Front rejected it as unconstitutional and said it would prepare for regional elections. It said this would avoid an illegitimate power grab by the incumbent.
In Ethiopia’s divisive ethno-political landscape, this year’s planned elections were always going to be a tricky affair.
Was the current impasse avoidable?
The National Electoral Board of Ethiopia was reorganised in 2018. Former opposition leader Birtukan Midiksa was appointed as its head. Despite these developments the government remained reluctant to hold elections on schedule.
Prime minister Ahmed stated that his government needed to consult all the political groups in the country to decide whether holding the election on time was appropriate.
In its most recent report, the International Crisis Group indicated that Ahmed’s tactics were reminiscent of the authoritarian past he had vowed to abandon. This included the arrest and harassment of activists and opponents.
It was only in October 2019 (following the Nobel Committee’s announcement that Ahmed had won the Nobel Peace Prize) that the premier stated explicitly that any delays in the poll would affect the legality and legitimacy of his government.
The electoral board and its new chairperson claimed that they had begun working on preparations for elections. However, an election timeline was only released in February this year. This goes contrary to custom whereby the board should have announced the calendar nine months prior to polling day.
In the February calendar, it planned to hold the elections on August 29, 2020.
Several organisations and political groups expressed their concern about the choice of date. Because of the rainy season, most rural areas are not accessible at that time. This would limit the participation of the majority of Ethiopians. The electoral board insisted on going ahead with the August date, claiming that any delay would result in a constitutional crisis because an un-elected government would be in office.
From this sequence of events it is clear that the constitutional crisis was already brewing before the additional problems posed by COVID-19. The late preparations and unrealistic choice of date already posed a very serious problem to the practicality and legitimacy of the elections. COVID-19 gave the government a golden opportunity to justify further delays.
The way forward
Analysts who follow Ethiopia closely, for example Rene LeFort – a writer, reporter and author of Ethiopia: An Heretical Revolution? – have indicated that Ahmed is increasingly personalising power. They say he has shown his aspirations to become the “big man” of Ethiopia at any cost. This would include operating outside the legal framework if necessary.
The Abiy administration has reversed early gains that were made by opening the political space. The resumption of intimidation and mass incarceration of opponents point to a return to the old authoritarian days. His regime is failing to deliver on its promises and is quickly losing its legitimacy.
When it dissolved the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front and replaced it with the Prosperity Party it arguably abandoned its legality. The Prosperity Party only has the façade of legality because the representatives who were elected under the front irregularly assumed Prosperity Party membership.
The postponement of the poll without proper political settlement could be the last straw. The country is at risk of balkanisation along ethnic lines.
The Tigray region has declared that it will go ahead with its regional elections. Neither the electoral board nor Ahmed’s government can legally stop the Tigrayans from holding elections.
Any attempt to stop the election by force could split the Ethiopian army along ethnic lines. Such an attempt could be a recipe for the Tigrayans to invoke article 39 of the constitution and declare an independent state. Several major opposition groups, including the largest coalition of Oromo national organisations, have also declared they might go it on their own beyond September 30. They refuse to recognise an illegitimate government.
The solution, therefore, is more political negotiation rather than constitutional “interpretation”. None of the provisions in the constitution, however much they are stretched for convenient interpretation, allow for the extension of the incumbent’s mandate beyond September.
An agreement on the poll date, as well as the type of provisional administration to bridge the gap between September and the next election, can only come through dialogue between all political parties and key civil society organisations. Anything less could spell the most severe crisis in Ethiopia’s modern history.
64 Ethiopians suffocated to death in a container that carried them illegally across the border between Malawi and the western Mozambican province of Tete, the independent television station STV reported on Tuesday.
According to the Tete provincial health authorities, a further 14 Ethiopians survived.
Provincial health director Carla Mosse said the immigration services stopped the truck carrying the container in the district of Moatize early on Tuesday morning. . When the container was opened, the 64 bodies were found.
"It is assumed that death was by asphyxiation, but we are still working on the matter", said Mosse.
The immigration services gave a different figure for the death toll, claiming that 78 Ethiopians had died in the container.
Immigration officer Amelia Direiro told STV that her colleagues ordered the truck to stop "but the driver didn't want to stop. My colleagues hear a noise in the truck. They checked and found 14 citizens who had entered illegally and 78 who had already suffocated".
The driver of the truck is a Mozambican from Beira. The truck is from Malawi, and crossed the border illegally.
The driver and the driver's mate are both under arrest. The case is being handled by a team with representatives from the provincial health and justice directorates, the police, the criminal investigation service (SERNIC) and the immigration service.
Mosse said the 14 surviving Ethiopians will be screened for the new coronavirus that causes the respiratory disease Covid-19.
It is not known what the final destination of the Ethiopians was, but it is likely they were making their way to South Africa, where there is a large Ethiopian community.
Several African governments on Sunday closed borders, canceled flights and imposed strict entry and quarantine requirements to contain the spread of the new coronavirus, which has a foothold in at least 26 countries on the continent as cases keep rising.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a national state of disaster and warned the outbreak could have a “potentially lasting” impact on the continent’s most-developed economy, which is already in recession.
Measures to be taken there include barring travel to and from countries such as Italy, Germany, China and the United States.
“Any foreign national who has visited high-risk countries in the past 20 days will be denied a visa,” he said, adding that South Africans who visited targeted countries would be subjected to testing and quarantine when returning home.
South Africa, which has recorded 61 cases, will also prohibit gatherings of more than 100 people, Ramaphosa said.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said his government was suspending travel from any country with reported COVID-19 cases.
“Only Kenyan citizens, and any foreigners with valid residence permits will be allowed to come in, provided they proceed on self-quarantine,” he told the nation in a televised address.
The ban would take effect within 48 hours and remain in place for at least 30 days, he said.
Schools should close immediately and universities by the end of the week, he added. Citizens would be encouraged to make cashless transactions to cut the risk of handling contaminated money.
Kenya and Ethiopia have now recorded three and four cases respectively, authorities in each nation said on Sunday, two days after they both reported their first cases.
In West Africa, Ghana will ban entry from Tuesday to anyone who has been to a country with more than 200 coronavirus cases in the past 14 days, unless they are an official resident or Ghanaian national. Ghana has recorded six cases.
President Nana Akufo-Addo said in a televised Sunday evening address that universities and schools will be closed from Monday until further notice. Public gatherings will be banned for four weeks, he said, though private burials are allowed for groups of less than 25 people.
In southern Africa, Namibia ordered schools to close for a month after recording its first two cases on Saturday.
Djibouti, which has no confirmed case of COVID-19, said on Sunday it was suspending all international flights. Tanzania, which also has no cases yet, canceled flights to India and suspended school games.
Other nations have also shuttered schools, canceled religious festivals and sporting events to minimize the risk of transmission. Some 156,500 people worldwide have been infected and almost 6,000 have died.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Sunday said he has asked South African President Cyril Ramaphosa to intervene in an ongoing dispute with Egypt and Sudan over Ethiopia's Renaissance Dam.
The filling of the dam has been a source of tension between the Nile countries. Egypt and Sudan argue that Ethiopia has not provided sufficient guarantees to their water supply, which is highly dependent on the Nile River.
All three countries were expected to have finished negotiations ahead of signing a deal later this week. But negotiators say significant issues remain.
"As (Ramaphosa) is a good friend for both Ethiopia and Egypt and also as incoming AU chair, he can make a discussion between both parties to solve the issue peacefully," Abiy said at a press conference in the South African capital Pretoria.
'A solution can be found'
For his part, Ramaphosa said he had accepted the task and that he had already reached out to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi.
"The Nile River is important to both countries and there must be a way in which both their interests can be addressed," said Ramaphosa. "There must be a way in which a solution can be found."
Concerns over the Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile, one of the main sources of the Nile River, have dogged relations between the African nations for years. At times, Egyptian officials have threatened military action against the dam, including airstrikes, saying its existence poses an existential risk to Egypt.
For Ethiopia though, the dam is a much-needed source of power to energize what has become one of Africa's fastest growing economies.
Ethiopia and South Africa also signed several trade agreements spanning health, tourism and telecommunications industries during Abiy's visit.
A number of African countries are suffering the impact of insect invasions that are threatening food production and livestock production.
To the east, Ethiopia is battling locust invasion whiles further south, Malawi is dealing with tsetse fly attack on local populations after elephants were relocated from a wildlife reserve.
Ethiopia and the desert locust invasion
Ethiopia is working to contain a locust invasion that according to reports affects about four regions of the Horn of Africa nation. The affected regions are Afar, Oromia, Somalia and Amhara regions.
Authorities resorted to the use of aerial spraying of large fields to control the spread and damage caused by the insects believed to be migratory in nature.
The privately-owned Addis Standard portal wrote in a report: “Migrating from Yemen through Djibouti and Somaliland, Desert Locust swarms entered Ethiopia and settled in the breeding sites in Afar, Amhara, Oromia and Somalia regions.
“The swarms have produced hopper bands that have covered more than 174 square kilometer (in 56 Woredas and 1 085 kebeles) and are consuming approximately 8700 metric tons of green vegetation every day. It is estimated that about 30 million hoppers can land on one-kilometer square area.”
Zebdewos Salato, Director of Plant Protection in the Ministry of Agriculture is quoted to have cautioned thus: “The swarms are likely to invade wider areas and cause significant crop, pasture and forest cover losses in eastern Ethiopia.”
To date, the insects have covered 17 370 out of the 28 671 hectares surveyed between July and September 2019.
In July 2019, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO, warned that Desert Locust summer breeding, buoyed by heavy rains, could pose a serious threat to agricultural production in Yemen, Sudan, Eritrea, parts of Ethiopia and northern Somalia.
The Organization called on all countries to monitor the field conditions by mounting regular ground surveys and undertaking the necessary control measures whenever infestations were detected.
Malawi fights tsetse flies, disease after wildlife relocated
The relocation of hundreds of elephants to Malawi’s largest wildlife reserve was meant to be a sign of hope and renewal in this southern African nation. Then nearby residents began falling ill.
The cause of the headaches, weakness and pain were trypanosomes, tiny parasites spread by the bite of the tsetste fly — a companion of the elephants. Trypanosomiasis, or sleeping sickness, is the result.
Local families described the toll the disease can take.
“I feel too weak,” said Chiomba Njati, who was still recovering after a week in the hospital. He said he was bitten while farming near the wildlife reserve. “I cannot even carry a hoe and farm. The home is lacking food and other important things because it is my wife doing everything on her own. This is so worrying.”
Authorities said the Nkhotakota wildlife reserve has seen a surge in tsetse fly numbers since around 2015 when the elephants and other game animals were reintroduced.
The local hospital said it did not have a number of sleeping sickness cases. One community resident, Group Village Ngondo, recalled at least five deaths from the disease.
The World Health Organization says sleeping sickness is endemic in 36 countries in sub-Saharan Africa but cases have been dropping. Last year just under 1,000 cases were recorded, a new low. The majority of cases are reported in Congo.
The disease is “notoriously difficult to treat” with drugs and easier to treat when caught early, WHO says. The health agency says it is usually fatal when untreated as the parasite moves into the central nervous system and eventually can cause seizures and coma.
Ethiopia has survived several dark epochs in its long history. One of them is known as Zemene Mesafint – the era of princes. This period, between the mid-18th and mid-19th century, got its name from the Bible because it mimics the biblical “period of judges” in Israel’s history.
Joshua, who guided Israel in the last and critical part of their journey of liberation and helped them to settle in the promised land, had just passed away. Upon his death, the central point in Jewish life started to dissipate. The nation splintered into 12 tribes; a vicious cycle of violence and lawlessness followed.
In the same way, Zemene Mesafint was a treacherous time in Ethiopia. Its union was seriously threatened by power-hungry regional warlords. The nation’s political and institutional architecture was tested as the real power deserted the central government and lay instead with regional leaders.
In the pre-Zemene Mesafint period, monarchs were the symbols of the union. They were supreme judges, responsible for settling political squabbles. Then, there was the church to provide theological justification for the union.
Scholars believe that heightened regionalism during Zemene Mesafint brought Ethiopia to the brink of disintegration. But there are two reasons this may not be the case. First, there is no definitive evidence that the princes or warlords were seeking regional autonomy. Their intentions could be interpreted instead as a way of consolidating their regional power bases with a view to stepping towards the centre.
Second, another powerful non-state actor was in favour of unity at the time: the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. It was a powerful unitary machine whose major aim was advancing its message beyond one region. The Church had a lot to lose from disintegration. It also had a history of unseating leaders who tried to stand in its way.
So religion provided a theologically informed political tool – a national myth of a social covenant – to abate the looming danger. Ordinary citizens used this notion to invent their own version of volksgiest; a way of life. Their principal concern was negotiating their space with ethnic and religious others. Ultimately, the social tool that religious intellectuals deployed to avoid existential crisis became an opportunity that could help to reconfigure the Ethiopian union.
But it proved to be a missed opportunity. The leaders chose coercion, not conviction, as a means of unifying. Its ripples are still seen in Ethiopia today: grievance, entrenchment and revenge are swiftly becoming the new normal. Politicians, activists and media outlets continue to deconstruct old narratives and perpetuate new grievances. Nobody, however, is as busy reconstructing a new, inclusive story.
A new myth
The last three decades in Ethiopia have been a search for a new myth. The ethno-federalist system had legitimate logic: bringing about the dignity of (cultural and linguistic) difference between nations and nationalities. However, its rhetoric was drawn from the difficult past instead of the hope of better future. To make matters worse, it became a breeding ground for social and economic injustice.
In the absence of farsighted political elites who may have been able to craft a new inclusive myth out of the stories of nations and nationalities, ethnic groups had to walk back to find their stories in their own small compartments. This exacerbated narrow ethnic histories and ideals.
He did not come up with a new economic programme; nor did he bring a fresh political road map. Instead he emerged telling a new story with the potential to become a new myth. He branded it “medemer” – togetherness. However raw and under-explored, his story was a breath of fresh air. Hope was palpable on the air.
But now it feels as if that were a century ago. The notion of “medemer” needed well-intentioned scholars to play the role of midwife and an unwavering commitment from the Prime Minister himself to nurture this philosophy and to reinforce it with action. This has not happened. And so, a rather hopeful concept which could have become a unifying legend seems to have failed.
A new unionism?
As time passed, the philosophy of “medemer” became a means of pledging support to the Prime Minister.
Even more worrying, it became an all-purpose tool to build a personality cult around the man who gave birth to it. The Prime Minister did not protest this. He did not take an intentional step to detach himself so the philosophy could have a life of its own. Ethiopian intellectuals – who may have been able to guard against exactly this – seem either too entrenched in enthno-nationalist thinking themselves or too politically opportunist to take a critical distance from Abiy.
Ethiopia is now a secular state. No religious group has the sort of legitimacy the Ethiopian Orthodox Church once did to reconfigure the country’s social contract.
How could this situation be turned around?
The answer, I believe, lies with ordinary Ethiopians rebuilding the idea of unionism, whose spirit is far from dead. Instead, it has retreated to the humble corners of the society. It is timidly murmured in prayer rooms, discussed at kitchen tables, embedded in songs that yearn for better days and concealed in sublime art forms. An example is a recent poem by Ethiopian actress and poet Alemtsehay Wedajo:
The brave knows how to forgive,
The hero knows the value of love
The wisest sees mountain’s range,
The weakest, however, would revenge.
The masses – the silent majority – crave forgiveness and peaceful coexistence. They have nothing to gain from conflict and disintegration. No normal ordinary person, regardless of ethnic belonging, is enthusiastic about the uncertainty of possible balkanisation. In Ethiopia, it’s time for a new unionism to find a reliable agency.
Ethiopian officials believe they set a world record on Monday by planting more than 200 million trees in a single day.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed led Monday’s effort which is aimed at countering the effects of deforestation and climate change in Ethiopia. The effort is part of his Green Legacy Initiative, which is taking part in 1,000 places across the drought-prone country.
Public offices were closed to allow civil servants to participate in the project.
According to the statistics from the United Nations, Ethiopia’s forest coverage declined massively from 35% of total land in the early 20th Century to a little above 4% in the 2000s.
Ethiopia’s Minister of Innovation and Technology Getahun Mekuria says the goal is to plant a total of four billion trees.
The current world record for planting trees in a single day is held by India, which used 800,000 volunteers to plant more than 50 million trees in 2016.
The population of Africa is booming, but as long as productivity and employment remain unsteady, “global experts” and economists contend, African cities could descend into conflict and disorder.
From their perspective, activities like street hustling are seen to embody chaos and delinquency. Hustlers are assumed to be young, sometimes criminal, unemployed, and enmeshed in the informal economy of the streets, living in informal settlements or “slums” and illegally occupying urban land that could be used more productively.
These portrayals have a long history, rooted in colonial attitudes toward informal workers and economic policies that have long overlooked the value street hustlers have created in modern African cities.
A successful hustler is embedded in the city’s social relations. To get by, hustlers connect people, provide services and enable economic exchange, in both licit ways (such as retail, brokering transactions and providing electricity, water, transport and sanitation) and illicit ways (retrieving and fencing stolen goods).
Of course, the street economy is not all roses. Hustling can be predatory and criminal. But this not the whole story, as my own research on street lives in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa taught me.
Smartness in the city
Hustling has a special place in Addis Ababa, especially in Arada – a historic part of the city centre. Since the mid-20th century, Arada has conveyed a sense of smartness and urban sophistication, which generations of residents have nurtured and cultivated.
In the 1950s and 60s, intellectuals, artists, government officials and members of the city’s emerging middle class described themselves as “Arada” to make sense of how the city, with its bars, restaurants, cinemas and theatre, shaped their lifestyles, sensibilities, and social lives. To this day, being Arada signifies a proud local history of cultural and intellectual production among the city’s middle classes.
At the same time, hustlers and sex workers – poor men and women who lived side by side with the middle classes – also claim to be Arada. For them, the hustler’s ability to navigate the city and get by against the odds was a sign of smartness. Being Arada has been a way for these people to assert their presence in the city and achieve a sense of self-worth and respect.
Hit with evictions
Both the intellectualism of the elites and the street smarts of hustlers and sex workers transformed the neighbourhood of Arada into a social and cultural hotspot. But today, the very people who gave the neighbourhood its meaning and value are under attack. In the past decade, the Addis Ababa city government has initiated waves of evictions targeting inner city areas, including Arada and neighbouring Arat Kilo.
Government officials I interviewed over the years are adamant that the cleared areas were unfit to live in, with dilapidated housing, poor sanitation and health conditions. The evictions are for development, they say – they make room for private investment and regeneration.
But in all likelihood, evicted residents won’t be able to return to the city centre. Those who can afford a down payment of between 25,000 and 180,000 birr (roughly US$850 to US$6,200), and monthly instalments of 2,000 to 3,000 birr (US$70 to US$100) over 15 to 25 years, will relocate to the outskirts of Addis Ababa, where the government has been building large tracts of “affordable housing”. Those who cannot afford it – 20% of the city’s residents – will need to look for a cheap place to rent elsewhere.
Commercial spaces, high-end apartments, leisure facilities and office blocks will replace inner city residences, alongside a few blocks of “affordable housing” for a lucky few. The old trope of the African city as a site which needs to be ordered and contained has struck again. And this time, it has hit longstanding residents hardest.
Location, location, location
For elite economists, developers, investors and policy makers, hustlers have no place in the new, beautified vision of Addis Ababa, and places such as Arada – with their dilapidated housing and informal economies – have no economic value. In fact, these very actors stand to profit from the cultural meaning and value generated by the residents that they evict from these historic areas.
One of these investors is Jonny (not his real name), an Ethiopian businessman in his fifties who I interviewed as part of my research. While holding a drink at the lounge bar at the Hilton, he showed me pictures of furnishings he had ordered from China. He was building a hotel in a newly cleared inner city area. It is an exciting business opportunity, he told me:
It was an old house, in an old area. Very beautiful, very beautiful.
The real estate motto “location, location, location” has as much to do with the historical and cultural significance of a place, as its proximity to local amenities or spectacular city views. But while developers like Jonny can now pursue their dreams, the people who made the area desirable in the first place are being pushed out.
“They want to get rid of the poor,” said Ibrahim, a former hustler and current car attendant in his late thirties, as we walked around what remained of nearby neighbourhood Arat Kilo after a wave of evictions in 2012. Others clearly agreed. Just a few days after the evictions, graffiti appeared on the remaining buildings: “Since they were jealous of us, they tore down ours,” one message read. Some parts of Arada are still standing, but residents worry that sooner or later, it will be their turn.
In research interviews, government officials emphasised to me that evictees are compensated, and that being offered place in the government’s affordable housing programme is a change for the better.
But Eden, a mother of two who lives in a new built housing complex on the eastern outskirts of Addis Ababa, did not agree:
We live in these new houses, but there is not much change! Now we have to pay thousands for the mortgage. Then your salary is cut, first by taxes and then by transport costs – it is not fair!
Evictions in Addis Ababa will continue regardless, this time also with the involvement of international investment. In November 2018, Abu Dhabi-based real estate developer Eagle Hills and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched La Gare, a new development with shopping malls, luxury hotels and over 4,000 high-end residences. La Gare will replace Kirkos, one of the oldest neighbourhoods in the inner city.
This April, Abiy Ahmed announced another milestone in his plans for the regeneration of Addis Ababa. His riverside project - “Beautifying Shegher” - will be supported by the Chinese government: a 12-kilometre redevelopment of densely populated parts of the Ethiopian capital.
As Ethiopia’s economy continues to grow, development is in demand and inner city residents, including hustlers, expect it. But it should not be pursued at the expense of the very people who helped create value and meaning in the city. This value must be recognised: historically and politically but – above all – morally and monetarily.
The names of individuals interviewed as part of the research project have been changed.
Egypt has been ranked top of 10 leading countries in Africa where hotel development has seen an upsurge, with Nigeria, Morocco and Ethiopia trailing. This is according to the 11th annual survey by W Hospitality Group, which over the years has earned global acclaim for its expertise in hospitality business.
The four countries lead the pack by numbers of rooms in the internationally-branded hotel development pipeline, with Egypt showing 15,158 rooms in 51 new hotels. A total of 75,155 branded rooms in 401 hotels are in development across the continent, a net increase (ignoring recent openings and taking in to account deals that have not come to fruition) of almost 11,000 rooms in the pipeline, 17% up on 2018.
W Hospitality Group’s Hotel Chain Development Pipelines in Africa survey had a record 43 international and regional hotel contributors this year, covering 54 countries in north and sub-Saharan Africa, and the Indian Ocean islands.
The top-line figures show that in North Africa the rooms’ pipeline is up 2.3% on 2018, and down 3.8% in sub-Saharan Africa, largely due to several of the chains ‘cleaning’ their pipelines, deleting deals that they believe are not going to happen. These cleaning adjustments amount to more than 12,000 rooms in 74 hotels.
Nevertheless, despite this significant adjustment, there has been growth of 51% in the total pipeline rooms since 2015 – North Africa up by 58%, and sub-Saharan Africa up by 47%.
According to survey, the top 10 countries account for 69% of the total hotels in the survey, and 74% of the rooms. Details of the survey report is expected to be presented for discussion at the forthcoming Africa Hotel Investment Forum (AHIF) in Addis Ababa, billed for September 23 and 25. The annual forum is organised by Bench Events.
The Managing Director of W Hospitality Group, Trevor Ward, said: “Egypt has by far the largest number of rooms in the pipeline this year, almost double the number in Nigeria, which is in second place. There has been huge activity by the chains in Egypt, with over 2,000 new rooms signed there in 2017, and a further 4,500 in 2018, of which 1,850 were signed by Radisson. Accor has no fewer than 16 deals with 6,363 hotels in Egypt, boosted by new brands from its acquisitions, including Mövenpick and Fairmont.”
Ward described this as an interesting development: “It’s interesting that there has also been a lot of activity in some of Africa’s countries, such as Niger and Zambia. In Niamey (Niger), where there is currently no branded hotel supply, there are no fewer than five hotels in the pipeline, and in Lusaka (Zambia), the chains signed 11 deals in 2018 and early 2019, taking the total pipeline there to 15 hotels with almost 1,900 rooms.’’
Looking at the top 10 cities, Cairo, with over 8,000 rooms in development and Addis Ababa, with over 5,000, have a clear lead. They are followed by Lagos (the leader for several previous years) and then Nairobi, Algiers, Abuja, Dakar, Abijan, Lusaka and Marrakech, the last two in the top 10 for the first time.
Egypt is not only the country with the most internationally-branded hotels in development, it also has the most internationally-branded properties already operated by the contributors, 108 hotels with 35,711 rooms between them. The countries which rank next, in terms of branded hotel rooms already operating are South Africa with 24,048, Morocco with 12,498 and then Tunisia, Nigeria and Algeria, all with just over 5,000. Kenya has over 4,000 branded rooms and it is followed by Ghana, Tanzania and Cape Verde, each with just over 2,000. At the other end of the list, there are four countries with no internationally-branded hotels and none in the development pipeline; they are Central African Republic, Eritrea, The Gambia and Somalia.
In the battle of the brands, Accor is the strongest pipeline player in Africa with more than 27,000 rooms spread across 162 hotels. It is followed by Marriott with over 23,000 rooms in 135 hotels. However, if both complete their current development pipelines with no further additions, they will stand neck and neck with just over 40,000 rooms each operating in Africa. Hilton is in third place, Radisson fourth and IHG fifth, after which, there is a substantial gap between the big five and other international chains.
Source: New Telegraph Nigeria