ADDIS ABABA, October 5, 2011—Atsede Gebre Selassie, 27, proudly gives a tour of her neighborhood, lined with cobblestone streets.
“All these streets were previously dirt roads, dusty in the dry season and flooded in the wet season and extremely filthy,” she said. “Now look how clean and beautiful they are!”
Atsede is the head of Kebele 5, a local district in the city of Adigrat located in Ethiopia’s Tigray Region. Adigrat is one of the 19 cities participating in the World Bank financed Urban Local Government Development Project (ULGDP).
As part of that project, Kebele 5 has been voted the best Kebele in the city for its cleanliness, and for having the best administration and services.
The International Development Association-financed USD$300 million project was launched as a performance-based matching grant, where funding is provided to eligible urban local governments to promote positive change in their overall institutional performance. The performance-based grant is having a transformative effect on cities in which the project is implemented. For the first time, these cities have access to transparent, predictable funding, as long as they meet objective performance criteria.
The project has helped cities like Adigrat to better plan and deliver priority services, and to improve infrastructure identified by citizens. City governments now have meaningful consultations with citizens about needs and plan for them accordingly. Previously cities did not systematically consult with citizens in determining priorities.
“This is the first project in our city under which we were asked what our needs were,” said an Adigrat citizen. “We needed better roads and drainage, our houses used to get flooded during the rainy season. Now we have what we asked for. In the past, officials made decisions of how to use our money without even informing us.”
Citizens appreciate the cobblestone roads, bridges, and drainage systems so much, that they are now contributing their own funds to construct more.
Creating jobs for local residents
The activities supported through ULGDP have created thousands of economic and employment opportunities for local communities, especially for disadvantaged groups such as women, youth, people with disabilities, and previously unemployed people.
The market-oriented focus of cobblestone paving encourages creation of micro and small scale enterprises (MSEs), providing opportunities for entrepreneurs and small businesses. Cobblestone paving is labor-intensive, creating jobs in quarrying, chiseling (shaping the cobblestones), in transport, paving (laying the cobblestones) and tool production. By the end of 2003 EFY (2010/11), some 95,000 people were engaged in cobblestone and other infrastructure works financed under the ULGDP in all 19 cities. Of those, 65 percent are male and 35 percent female.
In addition, farmers and families in the surrounding areas are able to make extra money by chiseling the stones and selling them to the MSEs for two birr (US11 cents) a piece. How much chiselers earn depends on how hard they work. According to some chiselers, those who have mastered the skill can make over ETB 1,800 (about USD100) per week.
Ayelech and Workiye are both 18 years old and are among hundreds of women working as day laborers at the construction site of the state-of-the-art bus terminal in the city of Gondar financed by ULGDP. According to the project manager, currently the construction has created jobs for over 200 people, and once completed, the terminal will create permanent jobs for over 600 people.
“Since finishing 10th grade, I had searched for a job for over a year until I finally landed this job,” Ayelech said. “I have five siblings who depend on me. With the money I earn, I am able to take care of my family.”
Weizero Tenfe, a resident of Sefene Selam Kebele in the city of Bahir Dar, tears up when she talks about how much the cobblestone streets have contributed to her neighborhood, not just in beautifying it but also in giving hope and providing a steady income to youth.
“I want to tell you the story of Zerihun, a young man who had lost a leg and was making a living by asking for handouts,” Tenfe said. “He used to beg me for money every time I saw him. Now thanks to this project, he has been employed for over two years and every time he sees me he says to me ‘look at me now, I have a job, I am productive and I am now a husband and father, my life has changed for the better.’”
Zerihun is a member of one of several MSEs made up entirely of people with disabilities who have found work on infrastructure projects financed under the ULGDP.
Raising home values, improving livelihoods
The project also appears to have contributed to bringing about behavioral changes in the youth. According to some local citizens, as more and more youth gain employment through the project, crime rates in neighborhoods and the use of khat (a mildly narcotic substance) have gone down among the youth.
The cobblestone roads have also beautified neighborhoods and increased property values.
“When I first bought my house over 10 years ago, it was worth 45,000 birr (US$2,633), now that the neighborhood has changed due to the cobblestone street, last week, I had a offer to sell my house for 2,000,000 birr (US$117,000),” says Weizero Tiblets, a citizen of Mekelle.
As a result of the cobblestone works, mobility for residents has increased, flooding has diminished, small enterprises are opening for business, and investment in private homes is rising. These changes are transforming city centers into lively and welcoming places in which to live, work, and visit.
“ULGDP is helping cities provide better urban governance, infrastructure, and public services to over 2.8 million people,” said Gelila Woodeneh, a communications officer for the World Bank in Ethiopia. “Nineteen cities comprising about 42 percent of Ethiopia’s urban population have benefited from the project, and another 18 cities will receive capacity building support to prepare them for future financing.”