In a City Hall adorned with the theme of the New Year, Adanech Abiebie, 48, walked to a raised podium to take her oath for the highest executive office of the Addis Abeba City Council. She is the first female mayor of the 31 who had served the capital since its foundation over a century ago. Ironically, the diplomatic capital of Africa owes its founding to another female, Empress Taitu.

The only thing that could have taken away from the historical moment last Tuesday was that Adanech has been serving the capital as de facto mayor, but technically Deputy Mayor, for over a year. Like her predecessor, Takele Uma, now minister of Mines & Petroleum, Adanech held the highest office a municipal official not elected to the City Council could attain by law. After winning a landslide vote from the Nefas Silk District in the elections in June, the road was paved for her mayorship.

Mayor Adanech and her Council members, who want to see a "New Chapter" for Addis Abeba, will be in charge of a city at a significant juncture in its over a century-long existence. It is by far the most thriving part of the country, no less because it is undergoing an urban renewal in the form of the Beautifying Sheger Project and its attraction for Ethiopia's young and aspiring. The city has also been spared from the vicious, large-scale destruction and violence the rest of the country is beholding.

But there are also several short- and long-term challenges. The rising cost of living, wildly escalating property and food prices are the most glaring in the immediate future. It will be the most significant cause of urban poverty for quite some time to come. The long-term impediments to growth that would consume Madam Mayor’s attention will be housing shortages, poor public utility services provision, rapid migration from rural areas, unregulated urban sprawl, and Addis Ababa’s complex relationship with the surrounding Oromia Regional State. She has the job cut out for her.

PUBLISHED ON Oct 02,2021 [ VOL 22 , NO 1118]

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