Ethiopia: Addis’ sister cities, historical ties

December 11, 2018 Africa , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS

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Fanuel Lakew



According to Sister Cities International, a US-based organization, a sister city is a broad-based, long-term partnership between two communities in two countries. The relationship becomes official and internationally recognized after senior officials of both sides agree and sign an agreement to tie the knot. There is no limit on having any number of sister cities in any manner.


A city may have any number of sister cities, with community involvement ranging from half a dozen to hundreds of volunteers, the organization states saying sister city organizations can include representatives from non-profits, municipal governments, the private sector, and other civic organizations. “Each sister city organization is independent and pursues the activities and thematic areas that are important to them and their community including municipal, business, trade, educational, and cultural exchanges and projects (exchanges) with their sister city,” according to the organization.


Moreover, some agreements between sister cities can be legally binding as per the agreement. But most of the time the agreement between sister cities is symbolic and more cultural and developmental cooperation. In addition to this, relations mostly focus on soft power such as cultural and people-to-people relations. In some instances, the relations go beyond, like trade, investment and other development endeavours.


Addis Ababa is the political capital of Africa, as it is the hub of the African Union, Economic Commission for Africa and other international organizations. It was recognized as the capital of the country even by the colonial European power a long time ago. After the battle of Adwa, European powers recognized the independence of Ethiopia. Italy also signed an agreement with Ethiopia to recognize the independence of the only African country here in Addis Ababa.


It is also one of the fastest growing capital cities in Africa with a population of over five million people. The construction sector has been booming. At the same time, it becomes hustle and bustle as the migration from rural to urban areas is drastically increasing.


Addis Ababa has sister cities such as Nairobi since 1968. According to the Mayoral Office of the city, Addis Ababa has about 14 sister cities. Some of them are Chuncheon of South Korea, Beersheba of Israel, Saint Petersburg of Russia, Johannesburg of South Africa, Khartoum of Sudan, Lusaka of Zambia, Beijing and Chongqing of China, Grand Lyon of France, Leipzig of Germany, Ankara of Turkey, Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles of USA, among others.


According to the Mayoral office of Addis, there are areas of exchange with sister cities. For instance, the exchange areas with Saint Petersburg, since May 2009, have been to exchange experts on public transportation, science and technology, waste management, health, education, environment protection, social projects and other fields. It has an agreement with Grand Lyon on the area of urban development, mass transport, solid waste management, environment protection, capacity building, socio-economic development and cultural exchange.


Moreover, Addis’s exchange of area with Beijing, since 2003, focuses on economic cooperation and promotion of development in investment, tourism, culture, education, urban management, urban agriculture, trade and industry, health care, sports and other fields. Whereas, the area with Seoul has been exchanging experiences in urban development, green growth, disaster management, transportation and information technology, trade and investment. In addition to this, Chuncheon of South Korea had agreed with Addis in May 2004 to support Ethiopian veterans who took part in the Korean War. In this regard, veterans and family members have been benefiting from the ties of the two cities as they got financial support every year and get fully sponsored scholarship in South Korea.


Furthermore, Leipzig of Germany has been working with Addis to assist in various areas such as urban management and urban development, business exchanges, social sectors, environment protection, culture and sports. In this regard, Ethiopian football managers received training in Germany following the agreements. The exchanges of areas with Zambia are environmental protection, business exchange, tourism development, socio-economic development, human resources development, youth and cultural exchange programs as well as urban development and governance.


In addition to this, Addis Ababa had made a sister city agreement with Washington D.C. in December 2013, DC, former Mayor Diriba Kuma and Washington D.C Mayor Vincent Gray inking to further ties between the two cities on the development and other cooperation. It was learnt that former Mayor Driba said that: “I have a strong belief that the overwhelming power of Sister City relationships in citizen diplomacy and cultural and economic exchanges will have a profound impact across the purview of our sister cities and indeed within the horizons of our countries.”


According to the Mayor’s office of Addis, Mayor Gray on his part said that sister cities agreements continue to expand their reach to new and emerging regions of the world to strengthen global citizenship which he said have been amply testified by the huge turnout of the Ethiopian Diaspora to witness the historic signing ceremony. Such operations are very important to foster international ties that strengthen civil society and goodwill between nations.


Besides Washington D.C., Addis Ababa has also tied knots with Los Angeles. President and Executive Director of Sister Cities of Los Angeles, Fabiola Vilchez, visited Addis last year and said that “there are areas Los Angeles can cooperate with Addis Ababa, and renewable energy solutions are among them.”  This is really therefore a great chance for Addis to harness this opportunity to work with L.A in the renewable energy sector.


All in all, relations between sister cities do not only confine within but also across both countries. Even if Addis has a number of sister cities, its relations have not strengthened well with them. Benefits can be ensured from both sides. In this regard, Addis Ababa City Administration needs to strengthen the relations Addis has with other sister cities. Because in this period of globalization, soft power becomes very crucial and an instrument to promote the power and potentials of countries, the city administration needs to give due attention to this issue of sister cities.





Fanuel Lakew

Fanuel Lakew served as a reporter at the Ethiopian Herald Newspaper of the Ethiopian Press Agency. He did his B.A. degree in Political Science and International Relations from Addis Ababa University in 2012. He also served as the Secretary-General of the Ethiopian Political Science and International Relations. He as well studied M.A. in Politics and International Relations at the Central University of Gujarat, India. He is now working at the South African Embassy in Ethiopia as an Information Officer. He as well is pursuing M.A. in International Relations and Diplomacy at Addis Ababa University. He can be reached at [email protected]

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1 Comment

  1. Jamie Costello August 19, at 09:10

    Hi Fanuel, This was a great read, I love Ethiopia. Have got many connections there still. I think it's still got problems but they are getting things fixed slowly. Great website you have here. Take care Jamie


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