Private businesses interested in owning and managing public parks have a rare opportunity that opened after the Addis Ababa City Administration decided to onboard private capital to run three such facilities.

Africa, Weldestadik and the recently renovated Ambassador parks are up for outsourcing after their respective management failed to meet revenues targets. The Public Recreation & Parks Management Corporation (PRPMC) runs nine parks, eyeing to outsource them all this year.

Addis Abeba has 20 parks, of which 16 were under the Addis Abeba River Basins & Green Area Agency before the Corporation was formed as a public enterprise last year by the city administration. According to Girma Tessema, communications head, the private sector is better suited for managing profit-oriented operations.

“The public has forgotten the existence of these parks,” Girma told Fortune.

Girma, who believes the inclusion of the private sector brings much-needed public awareness, says that outsourcing is the only way to guarantee the continued existence of the parks.

The Corporation plans to issue tenders to outsource the "Hamle 19" Park soon, Girma disclosed.

It is a view backed by studies researchers conducted. A survey by a researcher, Isreal Endale, carried out in 2019 found that "lack of a community belongingness to protect public parks" is a challenge in managing the parks, alongside the absence of clarity in enforcing regulations and laws.

Africa Park was developed in the early 1960s to commemorate the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) founding. Covering a 45,703Sqm area on Menelik II Avenue, down to the UNECA, in Kirkos District, the Park is historical for having numerous trees planted by the founding fathers of the OAU. In the mid-2000s, Mohammed Ali Al-Amoudi (Sheik) donated 40 million Br to renovate the Park before handing it over to the city administration.

However, covering running costs and paying utility was beyond the Agency's budget. An attempt to put the Park back to the management under one of MIDROC Ethiopia's subsidiaries failed after the Park remained closed to the public for several years since 2004.

Ambassador Park lies on a 9,393Sqm plot in Arada District, adjacent to a cinema bearing its name, along Ras Desta Damtew Street. The city administration spent 49 million Br renovating the Park in 2018. The protracted bidding process forced the Park to remain closed for two years before Nahiet Plc finally renovated it a year later.

A wedding photo shoot at Ambassador Park costs 2,000 Br and a 10 Br entrance fee.

Zeinab, 29, and Jilalu, 35, took pictures in the Park last week. An accountant, she has been a regular visitor for about a decade and remembers the days when the Park was full.

“It used to be packed with foreign nationals during the weekends,” she recalled.

Her husband agreed that the Park's beautiful setting was being put to waste as it has little to no services besides the greenery it offers. The expansive one-hectare Park is mostly empty, with a few children playing during peak hours.

Misrak Abebe is another regular, happy with the Park's low fare and open space for her son to run around.

“There is no service for adults,“ she told Fortune.

Experts believe outsourcing the parks in search of private capital and management is long overdue. Private companies bring financial resources to redevelop the parks and manage their accessories; the city monitors and supervises their activities; and the districts can generate revenues from outsourcing public parks to private investors.

“They should have privatized them a long while ago,” says Simeneh Beshe (PhD), an economist and consultant, arguing that the administration's intentions of outsourcing them only to spend millions on renovation were counter-productive.

The Weldestadik Park, lying on a four-hectare plot near the Lebu condominium site, was renovated for 101 million Br two years ago. Named after the capital’s first mayor, Bitweded Goshu Weldestsaik, it has a swimming pool that has not been refilled since administrative duties were passed to the Corporation.

PUBLISHED ON Feb 11,2023 [ VOL 23 , NO 1189]

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