A Capital in Bloom


Oh Academia! The demands of working and studying part time is threatening to break my resolve. The fact is that my life right now is dictated by deadlines. I mean the origins of the word deadline is enough to send me to the grave!  Well according to Robert Charles Lee, via Quora, deadline was a military term, meaning a line of weapons fire aimed at killing anything moving, regardless of enemy or friendly troops present. It was also a prison term, meaning a line drawn around a prison and prisoners crossing it will be shot!

So in an attempt to ward off the impending doom, I hope to use this space as a place of reflection and dialogue. To use  every ‘hand-in’ as an opportunity for growth and refinement.

Below is abstract that I recently submitted for a course titled Aspects of City Design, where each student was asked to select a country or city in Sub-Saharan Africa to study and unpack an urban theory related to its formation.


Addis Ababa is a city that developed autochthonous, as compared to other African cities, with the exception of a brief occupation by the Italians in the second half of the 1930’s. The capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, represents the growing phenomena of exponential urban growth experienced by African cities. With a growing population composed of 78 ethnic groups, Addis Ababa is the undisputed metropolis of the country, where it hosts the seat of the Government of Ethiopia, the seat of Government for the Oromia Region, including home to other international organizations, namely the headquarters of the African Union (AU). The city’s position on the international stage is secure as Addis Ababa prides itself as the diplomatic capital /heart of Africa, and it has become one of the fastest transforming urban environments on the globe.

Due to its brief colonial history, Addis Ababa offers a unique opportunity to link postcolonial development with the modernization efforts of the precolonial and colonial past. In this essay, the distinct socio-political eras will be discussed in relation to its transnational exchange which contributed to the shaping of Addis Ababa: from wandering capitals to city (1886– 1935), the Italian East Africa (1936-1941), Imperial modernity (1950-1960’s), the Socialist regime (1974–1987) and the current federal democracy that has been in practice since 1991 and the effects on the urban development of the city. My argument follows the provocative and complementary propositions made by philosopher Olúfémi Táíwò and historian J. F. Ade Ajayi. Táíwò who argues that Africa was already becoming modern before European colonialism, and Ade Ajayi contends that colonialism should be treated as an episode rather than as the determining factor in African history.

Featured Diagram: Addis Ababa major road network and urban developed area. Author’s own.