Cleared parking lot in Addis Abeba.

Benyam Tekleberhan, 26, graduated two years ago from Admas University in accounting but was dissatisfied with the salary scale and overall conditions of working as an agent for CBE Birr, a mobile payment platform.

“I like to work outdoors, and I am not an office person who tolerates restrictions,” he said.

He and 40 other people who have been looking for work registered at the Bole District Wereda02 Small & Medium Enterprise Bureau as unemployed persons recently. They were issued unemployment ID cards.

The group consists of students, street boys, shoe shiners and car washers who live a hand-to-mouth existence. About 67pc were street boys from around Bole, while the others have some high school education and college degrees.

The youth, after passing a selection process at the weredaand district level SMEs, were sent to the City Trade & Industry Bureau to be registered and obtain licenses, TIN numbers and a letter that makes them eligible to enter into a contract with the City Traffic Management Agency.

The Agency, after verifying their documents, writes another letter to Addis Credit Finance & Savings that enables them to open saving accounts. Then they were assigned to operate a parking lot located in front of Friendship Mall on Africa Avenue in Bole district.

The area was once leased by the City Administration to the Saudi Arabia Embassy to develop. After the lot lay undeveloped for several years, the city administration repossessed it a couple of months ago.

Many other plots throughout the city that were once leased to 95 enterprises, 18 diplomatic missions and 11 government offices were repossessed in recent months by the City Administration.

In total, 1.3 million square metres of leased land and another 2.7 million square metres of land has been transferred during different regimes or before the current leasehold system came into effect.

After the lots were repossessed, Deputy Mayor Takele Uma initiated a project of using the land for job creation purposes, while the city plans its long-term goals.

The city's Land Management, Road Authority, Construction Bureau, Traffic Management Agency and some investors collaborated to create the project, which identified 12 parking plots around the city, six in Bole, three in Kirkos andthree in Lideta.

Another cleared parking lot sits in Kazanchis, a neighborhood in drastic need of parking spaces.

The City Roads Authority, City Construction Bureau and some investors provided earth moving machinery, dump trucks and other construction materials for the project. It is hoped that the parking lot will reduce city road congestion and accidents.

Terminals for taxis and buses have also been developed as part of the scheme in Piassa, Arada Giorgis, which has significantly reduced traffic congestion in the area, according to Mearnet Gebretsadiq, director at the Traffic Management Agency.

The size of the lots differs from 2,000Sqm in front of Bambis to 12,000Sqm inside the new stadium around Bole Medhanialem, which is still under construction.

The number of youth organised by the SMEs is around 300, and most of them have already registered and signed contracts with the Addis Abeba City Traffic Management Agency.

The largest groups, which consists of 60 members, are assigned to Adey Abeba Stadium, which is under construction in Bole.

One of the lots is located in front of Friendship Mall and was given to Benyam and his friends to operate as a parking lot. They have already started the service and have been working for the past four months.

“If we work hard here, we could make a lot of money,” said Benyam.

The site was neglected and bare for years and has been a concern for those in the area, according to Engdawork Mengesha, a security supervisor at Jupiter Hotel, located in front of the parking lot.

"The homeless and lawbreakers used it as a shelter,” Engdawork toldFortune.

The parking has been a good opportunity for the hotel customers, especially when there are meetings and other events, since the parking lot at the hotel is fully occupied, according to Engdawork.

Drivers like Samson Assefa, who goes to the area once a week for business meetings, are positive about the parking lot. But he points out that the parking fees vary at different times of day. “It is better if the smart gate controller operates, and customers know the price clearly,” said Samson.

Cleared parking lot in Addis Abeba.

The minimum fee for parking is six Birr and a maximum of 21 Br.

But the fee differs depending on the users, according to Dawit Kebede, team leader of the group that Benyam is working with.

"Some people pay a minimum of three Birr an hour, while others encourage us by giving up to 20 Br," he said.

Four of the parking lots, including Benyam's, have smart gate controllers. Two of them are at the National Stadium, while the remaining are located near Golden Tulip Hotel. Ephrem Zeru of Smart Parking Technology Plc installed the system.

The company has trained the youth and assigned a company manager to help them operate the system.

The controllers have been procured by the Transport Programmes Management Office, according to Ashu Sintayehu, road transport operations & law enforcement deputy CEO at the Agency.

The parking lot located in Kazanchis near the Total gas station is now operational. The area was cleared by youth who started to offer parking lot services on their own.

“Even the police force of the weredahas helped, since they view our efforts as positive, because the area was used by criminals who hide there,” said Addis Bihonegn, team leader of the parking lot that operates with 10 members.

For businesses adjacent to the new parking lots, it has been a great relief that the lot has changed for the better.

“In addition to being used by our customers, the clean and maintained conditions of the lots have relieved us from the unpleasant smell that penetrates our building and offices,” said Genet Abebe, a secretary working in a nearby building.

These businesses have to share half of their revenue with the government's road fund, and the other 50pc will be spent as salaries, with a limit of 2,000 Br a month that includes paying taxes on turnover and other deductions.

The ultimate goal of the scheme is to enable each enterprise to save a quarter of a million Birr, which could be the basis for starting other businesses, eventually leaving the slot for other job seekers.

They are required to save the amount within a short period, as the land used as parking lots are already leased to other developers.

To graduate in the stated time and handover the lots, the youths propose to supplement their income by providing a car wash service.

Drivers also suggest a weekly or monthly ticket arrangement by the Agency, which could offer a reasonable discount.

“We will respond to their comments step by step, seeing the challenges they meet during their performance,” said Ashu.

Fekadu Gurmessa (PhD), lecturer on transport geography at Addis Abeba University for more than a decade, finds the move acceptable as a quick fix from the angle of creating job opportunities for the youth.

But he says that the city administration has to work more to decrease vehicular movement in the city centre.

"To be more practical, it needs to build more enforcement capacity to free the streets from cars," Fekadu said. For a sustainable solution, the city requires a strategy that discourages the entrance of more vehicles to the centre of the city and encourages more people to use mass transport, according to him.

Binyam, currently staying with his family, is engaged in a job that makes him feel comfortable and hopeful for of a better future.

PUBLISHED ON Mar 30,2019 [ VOL 19 , NO 987]

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