Situated near the slopes of the hills that circle Addis Ababa’s southern flank, Jemo is a colossal condominium complex, comprising over 10,000 apartments.

By Tom Gardner (Thomson Reuters Foundation) |

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia―On weekday mornings traffic on the road northeast from Jemo into the center of Addis Ababa grinds to a near standstill, as taxis, minibuses and tuk-tuks wrestle for space along the narrow arterial highway.

Situated near the slopes of the hills that circle the Ethiopian capital’s southern flank, Jemo is a colossal condominium complex, completed in 2010 and comprising over 10,000 apartments.

When it opened, Jemo was the largest such housing site in the city, and today is home to some 50,000 people, many of whom work several miles away in the city center.

Sitting in a cafe on the ground floor of an apartment block on a leafy boulevard a few streets across from the highway, Tedros Worku gestures in the direction of the traffic.

“It is too far from Addis,” he says. “It is too far from work, and the road is too busy.”

Like several of the men he sits with, Worku is unemployed.

When he moved to Jemo four years ago, as a beneficiary of the Ethiopian government’s low-income housing scheme, the Integrated Housing Development Program (IHDP), Worku planned to set up an informal business, as he had done when he lived in slum housing in the inner city.

But when his friends in Jemo tried to set up a small street stall, the local authorities quickly shut them down.

They were told that only formal businesses in the area’s expensive ground floor units were permitted.

Despite waiting seven years to receive his single bedroom apartment in Jemo, Worku now plans to rent it out and use the income to move back to his old neighborhood.

“I miss my friends, my social life, my work,” he says. “I have a nice house but no income.”

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