Field and river

20th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies (ICES20)
Mekelle University, Ethiopia

"Regional and Global Ethiopia - Interconnections and Identities"
1-5 October, 2018

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Clélie NALLET, Research Fellow, French Institute of International Relations, Paris, France

Addis Ababa has been undergoing rapid demographic and spatial transformations in the recent years, with an important growth in the number of inhabitants combined with urban expansion. At the same time, the government is leading a proactive urban modernisation policy (modernizing infrastructure, destruction–regeneration of city centres and reclassification of rural-peripheral areas, implementation of condominium programmes). The objective of turning Addis Ababa into a “showcase-city” involves radical changes in the urban landscape, and has a strong impact on the way urban dwellers are living in the city and access it. For many among them, urban renewals and redevelopment projects implies a move, including massive involuntary displacement or mobilities motivated by the access to private housing. Here we will focus on how urban renewals are affecting the position of Addis Abeba “middle classes” in the city and in urban society, and how they produce strategies to deal with the city reconfigurations and to access urban spaces. These aspects are part of more global social upward mobility strategies middle class members attempt to develop at different levels. This presentation is based on a qualitative study of 150 “neither rich nor poor” households conducted between 2011 and 2013 in Addis Ababa. The survey reveals that Addis Abeba intermediate social space is principally characterized by the social diversity of its members. The study focused on social trajectories and practices, and by doing so highlights three coherent intermediate social subgroups. Exploring these different groups demonstrates that even though the middle class category does not make sense as a coherent social group, it is a particularly useful tool to understand social transformations ongoing in the capital. The presentation will develop the multiple and complex relations these intermediate social groups have with their capacity to compose with urban renewals, to produce and access the urban spaces – which is a stake at the core of their upward social mobility ambitions.