As we rattle through the streets of Addis Ababa in my taxi driver’s 1970’s 200 series Mercedes Benz, Tesfaya tells me proudly that Ethiopia is the only African country that has not been colonized and to have its own alphabet and calendar. He also stresses that these are the correct versions. The one thing you cannot accuse Ethiopia of is lacking its own sense of identity. Despite being one of Africa’s most ethnically diverse countries, its people share a unique sense of cultural identity.
On a macro-level Ethiopia is unique to other parts of Africa; we see this in its economies insatiable thirst for infrastructure. The government spends approximately 30% of its GDP on infrastructure, compared to an average of 20% across Sub-Saharan Africa.
While Tesfaya effortlessly makes his way across the chaotic Meskal Square, it is clear that infrastructure and property development go hand in hand in Ethiopia’s emergence as a regional economic powerhouse. The development juggernaut is rolling through Addis Ababa, and the hotel sector is going along for the ride. The pipeline of globally branded planned hotels in Addis is three times larger than the number of existing globally branded hotels. Hotel management companies such as Accor, Marriott, Wyndham, Best Western and Hyatt hotels among others who have announced projects in Addis Ababa.
Several factors have fueled this interest. Firstly, Addis Ababa has the third most diplomatic missions in the world, after Washington DC and Brussels. This diplomatic market is a strong and consistent underpin against the backdrop of a rapidly increasing, but sometimes variable corporate market.
Secondly, Ethiopia is emerging in the wake of Kenya’s tourism decline as a regional airline hub, with Ethiopian Airways expanding rapidly as a result. Thirdly, the country’s recent elections were concluded uneventfully and peacefully, resulting in another term in office for the ruling party.
This political stability and continued high GDP growth are the fundamentals driving the continued expansion of the sector. Addis Ababa is therefore likely to remain an important part of an East African strategy for investors, developers and operators alike, despite the significant pipeline of new hotels.
PS. Next time you are in Addis, try to find a moment to catch the weekly Jazz Evening on Thursdays at the Jupiter International Hotel. You will not walk away disappointed.