Drainage system maintenance around the Piassa area.

Yabets Zerihun drove a passenger from the Saris to the Laphto area around 3PM last week.

As he passed the area commonly referred to as Arba Meter, a giant trench appeared in front, forcing him to slam the brakes and prevent the car from tipping over.

"It came out of nowhere," he said.

The young man in his mid-20s works as a driver through online taxi-hailing companies and is familiar with most roads in the city. He was using Google Maps and did not anticipate a ditch suddenly appearing on a route he had passed through a few months ago.

He claims the absence of street lights and the dark misty, rainy night increased the likelihood of an accident. The sudden manoeuvre that left the passenger and Yabets flabbergasted was expected as no signs on the road indicated an ongoing construction was ahead.

"If there were a sign, I would have been more cautious," Yabets told Fortune.

Flooded streets during the rainy season, half-finished construction sites muddying the roads and incomplete infrastructure projects becoming hurdles to movement are frequent in the capital.

The mismatched pace between different infrastructure development bureaus undermine the intended utility of projects with newly paved roads usually carved out by cranes to maintain drainage systems or place steel poles. However, the apparent disregard for placing a warning sign actually poses a danger to citizens.

The responsibility of putting up signs that indicate obstacles that could impede the smooth flow of traffic ahead falls on whoever is undertaking construction in an area, according to Birahun Kuma, communication director of the Addis Abeba Traffic Management Bureau.

"They should follow safety protocols and put up signs," he told Fortune.

Unattended ditch around the entrance of Gofa Mebrat Hail condominium.

Birhanu admits increased coordination between public infrastructure developers is needed, although a council that seeks to integrate stakeholders' efforts to improve road safety exists.

A study on infrastructure governance and causes of poor sectoral coordination between several sectors in Addis Abeba reveals that administrations and policymakers pay meagre attention to the interdependencies of infrastructures.

The study by Mahlet Yilma in 2018 indicated institutional and financial governance arrangements and regulatory frameworks needed to be more effective and suitable for a multi-actor system.

According to the study, the relationship of multiple sectors was found to significantly influence the infrastructure development and service provision in the capital. As the country expands its road network, contentions involving delayed follow-through from accompanying infrastructures such as telecom lines, electrical grids and drainage systems were observed in other cities.

The effort to unify construction timetables between the Ethiopian Roads Administration, Ethiopian Electric Utility (EEU), Ethiotelecom and Water & Sewage Authority appears to be unsuccessful.

Mohammed Abdurahman, head of the Ethiopian Roads Administration, revealed that sudden renovations and upgrades created delays in the smooth road construction despite initial plans by infrastructure bureaus to integrate construction schedules.

The newly appointed official presented the Administration’s nine-month performance report to Parliament last week. He took the leadership role following his predecessor Habtamu Tegegn’s appointment as the Minister of Mines a few months ago.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) remarked the total length of road networks in the country reached 165,000Km in June, with the Administration building over 5,000Km of concrete asphalt. The Administration has been laying out the national transport grid for over 60 years and currently has over 570 concurrent road projects.

Dejene Fikadu, the deputy head, says the institutions attempt to integrate their plan during road design and construction stages. He said the final months of any fiscal year primarily involve efforts to coordinate schedules between government agencies despite gaps in execution.

"We understand that budgetary constraints affect timely execution on their end as well," he told Fortune.

He observes that some roads appear botched for drainage or electric pole placement and maintenance after construction is completed. In contrast, almost all speed breakers that arise out of design are built without their approval.

Dejene said the Administration has never been compensated for the botched roads by the responsible institutions after digging out holes to create a passage for drainage and sewage lines.

“We’re drafting a regulation to modulate compensation for damages,” he told Fortune.

Despite the construction of water and sewer lines being prone to attention, the absence of planning for coordination amongst developers is a pervasive phenomenon, according to construction industry insiders.

Incomplete infrastructure projects have impeded transportation for commuters in the capital, exacerbated during the rainy season.

Meron HaileMariam who lives around the Gofa Mebrat Hail Condominium, observes the roundabout which has been under renovation for a year, is a source of confusion for residents in the area. A giant pipe meant for a drainage system protrudes from the construction area dampening the road during the rainy season.

"There’s always chaos during rush hours," she said.

The International Journal of Scientific & Technology Research published a study in 2020 on the challenges of communication while developing infrastructure projects in Ethiopia. It indicates that lack of coordination between agencies was a significant factor in delays, cost overruns and poor quality.

The Infrastructure Development Coordination Agency which facilitates constructive interaction between government institutions was absorbed by the Ministry of Urban & Infrastructure.

The Communication Director, Ethiopia Mekonnen, acknowledged the need for coordination between developers, costing the country large amounts of money.

He recalled the Ministry had gathered representatives from the Roads Administration, Ethiotelecom and Water & Sewage Authority three months ago to discuss the implementation of a national masterplan that should be able to prevent further breakdown of communication.

He believes adherence to long-term national plans will be the way to bring about coordinated infrastructure development. According to Ethiopia, there will be an inter-reading of goals by all once the guidelines pass through the legislative grill.

"We’re working to bring accountability," he told Fortune.

Experts stress the importance of early-stage engagements that would protect infrastructures while avoiding unnecessary engagement between institutions later.

Yibelu Fentahun, an infrastructure design & construction lecturer at Addis Abeba University, argues the social impact of projects should be given due attention. He believes developers should engage during the design stages of projects.

"This is what planning entails," he said.

He reasons that compensation funds are considered part of project costs during the creation of proposals reflecting that assessments on the interrelation of projects are inherent to infrastructure development.

As Ethiopia's ranking on infrastructure development indexes by the African Development Bank remains close to the bottom, increased efforts to build a robust infrastructure network must be coordinated and paced to prevent undermining gains.

PUBLISHED ON May 06,2023 [ VOL 24 , NO 1201]

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