Cities in Ethiopia, and why is the second largest one so small?

For a country of about 102 million people, this distribution of city sizes is remarkable, noting that the true population of Addis is likely larger yet:

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 2,757,729
Dire Dawa, Ethiopia 252,279
Mekele, Ethiopia 215,546
Nazrēt, Ethiopia 213,995
Bahir Dar, Ethiopia 168,899


It is striking that the population is still about 80% “rural,” even with ten percent growth for a decade or so.

It seems that most people don’t want to leave their villages.  Given that apparent constraint, many of the somewhat larger villages have evolved into mini-cities with very limited infrastructure and density, but lots more consumption.  And Addis still is not so crowded, which makes it quite pleasant.  We’ll see how this pans out, but I had never seen this “enhanced rural” model before and it is worthy of more attention.  Here is one account of what is going on:

An entire town is to be built here — with a school and a training center where the farmers from the surrounding area can learn new skills, which they can then put to use to earn money. The newly founded municipality, which is to gradually grow to around 15,000 residents, is called Buranest. The idea behind the project is that the city must come to the farmers in order to keep the rural population from flooding into the cities…An entire network of this new type of settlement is to be built as part of Ethiopia’s Nestown project — half village, half town.

Just for a point of comparison, the tenth largest city in the Philippines, total population about 103 million, has 675,000 inhabitants and even the fifth largest city, Cebu, has almost a million people.


Comments for this post are closed