Addis Ababa, Ethiopia - Deployment of the CityStrength Diagnostic

Addis Ababa

The largest African market-Merkato in Ethiopia Addis Ababa. © Aleksandr Hunta/Shutterstock 

Addis Ababa is the capital of Ethiopia, home to 25% of the country’s urban population (approximately 3.6 million) and is one of the fastest growing cities in Africa. The city is located in the central part of the country at an altitude of 2300 meters.

The primary shocks that Addis Ababa faces are floods, urban fires and earthquakes. At the same time, the city faces a multitude of stresses, many of which are directly related to its current level of development, including unprecedented urban growth, water scarcity, unemployment, and social vulnerability. 

The unprecedented urban growth that Addis Ababa will face over the coming decades – the city is expected to double its population by 2030 – could create an agglomeration of people and economies that can catapult the city towards its long-term goals. However, if not well managed, it could also exacerbate existing shocks and stresses related to natural hazards, access to basic services, congestion, economic opportunity, and individual well-being. Despite strong economic growth trends, Addis Ababa faces significant development challenges. For example, unemployment and poverty levels in Addis Ababa remain high, estimated at 23.5% and 22% respectively. The local government is struggling to deliver basic services to all its residents, providing clean water to only 44% of the population and sewerage services to approximately 10%. Moreover, the physical development patterns witnessed in recent years are driving up the cost of infrastructure delivery. Addis is expanding in a sprawling manner, with growth in urban extent outpacing population growth.


“Climate change impacts in Ethiopia, such as the increase in average temperature and changes in rainfall distribution, exacerbate current vulnerabilities that are highly interlinked with other shocks and stresses such as rapid urbanization.  To support our cities in their pursuit of sustainable development, it is a necessity as well as an opportunity for our country to embark on a resilient development path.” 

-  Mayor Ato Deriba Kuma, Addis Ababa



Priority areas for intervention

Enhancing resilience in Addis requires actions and investments that are oriented toward implementing existing plans and regulations, establishing clear and capable leadership on risk management topics, and investing in infrastructure that meets existing and future needs.

Priority actions include:

  • Address unprecedented urban growth by quickly focusing on the implementation of the new Integrated Development Plan.
  • Focus on the review and enforcement of building codes and safety regulations as a means of addressing multiple shocks and stresses and working toward the goal of creating a safe and livable city.
  • Establish a disaster risk management and climate change adaptation coordination unit under the Mayor to strengthen, promote, and mainstream risk management initiatives across municipal agencies.
  • Address localized flooding due to surface water run-off by developing a stormwater drainage master plan and supporting the roads authority in assuming its mandate to manage drainage in the city.
  • Develop and strengthen core city agencies involved in transport to manage traffic congestion and accidents as well as roadway flooding.
  • Perform an extensive study of the most vulnerable groups with special attention to existing social service programs and access to housing and inform a possible integrated strategy to address the needs of the different vulnerable groups.
  • Strengthen citizen engagement efforts using disaster risk management and climate change adaptation as a point of entry.

Priority investments include:

  • Address water scarcity with a multi-pronged approach focusing on improved efficiency and protection of the existing supply system, demand management, and identification of additional water sources.
  • Pilot urban densification using a transit oriented development and integrated municipal management approach.
  • Establish mass transport skeletal services to shape metropolitan growth.
  • Reduce urban flooding in order to protect lives and property as well as to enhance mobility during the rainy season.
  • Ensure coverage and reliability of basic services, including wastewater collection and treatment and energy distribution.
  • Introduce an effectively targeted productive safety net and complementary livelihoods interventions in Addis Ababa to support extremely poor and vulnerable groups and households impacted by shocks.

As an integrated set of initiatives, implemented by Addis Ababa City Government with strengthened coordination among city departments and development partners, these actions and investments could have a transformational impact on the resilience of the city and provide manifold economic, social and environmental co-benefits.


“Ethiopia is engaged in rapid and comprehensive development activities to transition from poverty to sustainable and reliable growth and prosperity. Our cities are projected to play an increasing role in the economic transition of the country. Strengthening urban resilience to multiple shocks and stresses will therefore prove crucial to the success of this transition and to ensure improved living conditions for residents and at the same time increase attractiveness for investments and job creation. “

-  Mayor Ato Deriba Kuma, Addis Ababa

The World Bank’s CityStrength Diagnostic methodology was implemented to identify priorities for enhanced resilience in Addis Ababa.

In February 2015, Addis Ababa invited a team of specialists from the World Bank Group to implement the CityStrength Diagnostic in close collaboration with local officials, technical staff and other key stakeholders. The CityStrength Diagnostic methodology facilitates a dialogue among stakeholders about risks in their city and the performance of urban systems. It helps identify priority actions and investments that will enhance the city’s resilience as well as increase the resilience-building potential of planned and aspirational projects. CityStrength stresses a holistic and integrated approach that encourages cross-sectoral collaboration to more efficiently tackle existing issues and unlock opportunities within the city.

 For Addis Ababa, the team worked with local officials to identify six priority sectors/cross-cutting thematic areas for further diagnosis, including urban development, disaster risk management and climate change adaptation, community and social protection, transport, energy, and water and sanitation.


CityStrength implementation in Addis Ababa consisted of five stages:

  • A pre-diagnostic review was carried out prior to the visit in February to collect information and leverage efforts that have already been undertaken in the city. As part of this, a review was conducted of all relevant studies, reports and plans developed by the city, the World Bank and other development partners to identify key risks and trends and get an overview of the performance of the different sectors.
  • A launch workshop with key stakeholders in Addis Ababa helped validate and complement the findings of the pre-diagnostic review, created a shared understanding of urban resilience and provided an opportunity to learn more about the city’s goals and objectives.
  • Following the workshop, interviews with key city stakeholders were carried out in combination with site visits across the city to better understand the challenges and opportunities, and to qualitatively assess the performance of different urban systems. 
  • Based on the findings, urban stakeholders and the World Bank team identified priority cross-sectoral actions and investments that could help Addis enhance its overall resilience.
  • The recommendations were discussed with the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor of Addis and compiled in a report that the city can take forward in collaboration with the World Bank and other development partners.


Future plans and investments

There is a strong commitment from the Addis Ababa City Government to strengthen the resilience of the city. The World Bank in collaboration with the City Government and other partners are currently preparing two major activities – a $300 million project on urban land-use and transport and a $550 million project on urban safety nets that are incorporating the recommendations of the CityStrength Diagnostic. In addition, an urban wide risk assessment is planned for Addis Ababa to better address at-risk communities, buildings and infrastructure that can inform planning and investments in the future.

To read the full report with the outcomes of the exercise, please click here.

For more information on CityStrength, please visit: