More than 200 people paid an eye-watering $173,000 to attend a dinner thrown by Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has hosted a fundraising dinner to help secure $1bn (£750m) for infrastructure projects in the capital , which helps to raise funds for beautifing the capital Addis Ababa, state media reported Monday.
The state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate published pictures of diners, some wearing tuxedos, seated at a long rose-covered banquet table.
“A seat at the event is valued at 5 million birr,” the report said, adding that “over 200 individuals, representatives from local and international organizations” took part in the event.
The dinner was held to raise funds for a three-year project by Abiy to “lift the image” of the capital, a bustling, fast-changing city where modern buildings have shot up, construction is everywhere and greenery scarce.
“The rapid growth and expansion of the city over the past few years have not adequately utilized the natural resources and beautiful topography that the city is endowed with,” according to a video of the project posted on Abiy’s website.
The video said that currently green cover is only 0.3 square meters per capita in Addis Ababa, and the project hopes to raise this to seven square meters per capita — in line with average green coverage in Africa.
The project along an area of 56 square kilometers (21 square miles) envisions parks, bicycle paths, and walkways along the rivers of the capital, the planting of trees and the development of urban farms.
It is estimated to cost $1 billion, according to Fana broadcasting.
Abiy’s website said that those present at the dinner would have a plaque with their name on it placed along the project route, and would have a private photo-op with the prime minister. The pictures would be compiled into “an album of individuals who changed the face of Addis Ababa.”
According to BBC, guests began arriving at 15:00 local time (10:00 GMT) and were given a tour of the palace, according to some of the attendees who spoke to the BBC.
After the tour, they attended a cocktail reception and were personally greeted by Mr. Abiy.
“I was happy to take pictures with him [Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed] and to talk to him like a normal friend. Not just me, but everybody else [got to experience that],” one guest, Ali Hussein, said.
He felt proud to be able to help his city:
“I don’t know how much money they collected [from the dinner]. But I am ready to pay again and again to finish the project”, Mr Hussen said.
The guests described the food as traditional.
“There was raw meat. And I appreciate the way they prepared it. There was Tej (honey wine), coffee, very special coffee,” Mr. Hussen said.
Businesswoman Solome Tadesse said Mr. Abiy was making the rounds to the tables, encouraging people to eat. According to her, the prime minister did not sit in a special place but sat among the guests and ate and drank with them.
“We were satisfied by a lot of things, not just the dinner. I came out with hope,” Ms. Tadesse said.
Abiy has won praise for his reformist agenda since taking office in April last year.
Ethiopia is home to more than 100 million people, the second most populous country on the continent after Nigeria, and its economy is the fastest growing in the region.
Abiy’s dinner drew criticism on social media with some Ethiopians questioning whether the project was really a priority for the country.