A senseless stadium boom? Ethiopia on a spree

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Ethiopia stadium

Ethiopia may have the reputation of a famine-ridden country that needed foreign aid late into the 20th century to sustain itself. However, that hasn’t stopped the east African country from undertaking a ‘maddening’ stadium construction boom.

A new 30,000-seat stadium is under construction in Gambella at a cost of 375 million birr (Just over $ 18 million). Similar projects are underway in Mekelle, Awassa, Nekemte, Dire Dawa and Woldiya among others.

The big one of course, is the much awaited Adey Abeba Stadium in the capital Addis Ababa and an Olympic village project slated to be completed in a couple of years time, while the recently CAF ratified Bahr Dar Stadium has already started hosting international competitive games.

Adey Abeba Stadium will be built near Bob Marley Square at the old Imperial Hotel on 67 hectares of land. Once completed, it will have the capacity to hold 60,000 spectators, will host a swimming pool, volleyball, basketball, football field and other sporting facilities.

The Chinese company, State Engineering Corporation will conduct construction of the stadium in two phases. The first phase is expected to commence in one month with a 2.4 billion birr ($110 million) budget. The completion date for the project, however, has not been disclosed.

Another big stadium project on the anvil is the Awe Abadir Stadium in the city of Harar in eastern Ethiopia. A plot of 19 hectares was earmarked near major avenues created for a new district. Cornerstone laying took place on May 2, 2016 and construction is due to end in 2021. The project is phased, so the ground’s operation may begin as early as 2016.

One of Ethiopia’s leading sports websites, Ethiosports.com, wrote that “this stadium will have a seating capacity of 56,000, but could easily accommodate as many as 100,000 standing fans”. While optimistic and somewhat careless approach, this expectation may come as a surprise due to the fact that Harar as a city has just over 150,000 inhabitants and not much of a metropolitan area.

Meanwhile, the Ethiopian Football Federation (EFF) recently announced that it will build another giant 80,000-seat stadium in the city of Adama at a cost of 1.7 billion birr ($82 million.

Many are questioning the wisdom behind this mad rush for stadiums as the ambitious state-funded infrastructure projects also threaten to strain public finances in Ethiopia.

IMF forecasts see the public deficit possibly swelling to 44 percent of gross domestic product within several years, nearly double the current level that means the country is borrowing a fifth of what it spends. As it is, the financing shortfall for public works projects is already ten per cent of GDP.

Only time will tell if the stadium boom will offer a boost to the national economy or bring it down to its knees.

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