Daily Maverick, By Greg Mills
As Africa’s population doubles over the next generation to more than 2-billion people, might industrial parks – free trade zones by another name – offer some answer to the jobs that will be necessary? Ethiopia, where this writer has been researching the subject, offers some pointers.
Hawassa. Some 270km south of Addis Ababa, the picturesque Rift Valley city has relied on agriculture as the source of income and employment, the regional Sidama coffee one of Ethiopia’s best-known brands, and the name of the local football side.3
That is until the establishment of the Hawassa Industrial Park (HIP), inaugurated by then Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn in June 2017. Flanked by Lake Hawassa, HIP is the largest government industrial park, built at a cost of $250-million in just nine months by the contractor, the Chinese Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC). The first phase covers 140 hectares with 52 factory sheds, housing 20 textile and apparel firms from 11 countries.1
By the start of 2019 Hawassa’s factories employed 23,000 local workers and 700 expatriates. Though it was not the first, other government industrial parks are today modelled on Hawassa, which itself incorporated lessons from the first park at Bole Lemi in Addis. Five of 11 government parks are to date in operation (with six due to be inaugurated in the next six months) and two of four privately-owned examples. Together the five operational government industrial parks host 36 companies, providing 45,000 jobs that did not, 10 years before, exist. A town of 350,000, Hawassa’s GDP has alone increased fourfold in just two years.