Ethiopian urban research delegation visits RMIT

A visiting delegation has told of the great urban challenges Ethiopia faces due to rapid population growth, during a presentation at RMIT.

The Ethiopian urban research delegation with Professor Robin Goodman (middle left), Dr Hartmut Fünfgeld (middle right).

The Centre for Urban Research (CUR) hosted the delegation, which included five academics from the Addis Ababa University and two representatives from the Ethiopian Ministry of Urban Development and Construction.

Ethiopia is currently experiencing rapid urban growth, fuelled by economic development and an influx of refugees from neighbouring South Sudan and Somalia, many of whom travel to the nation’s capital, Addis Ababa.

Professor Tegegne Gebre Egiziabhar, who led the Ethiopian delegation, said the visit to RMIT presented an opportunity to see how the recently established CUR had been developed and administered on a day-to-day basis.

The delegation’s trip to Australia was a fact finding mission that also included a visit to the City Futures Research Centre at the University of New South Wales.

Their findings will be used in the planning and establishment of a national centre for urban and land policy research at the Addis Ababa University, which will help the country deal with its rapidly changing urban landscape.

Acting CUR Director, Dr Hartmut Fünfgeld, said the visit provided the centre with an opportunity to learn about current research and knowledge gaps in the African urbanisation context.

“We discussed current and future challenges of rapid urbanisation in Ethiopia,” he said.

“The delegation’s presentation highlighted the need for broadly based capacity building in Ethiopian urban planning, analysis and development.”

The CUR is open to global collaborations and Dr Fünfgeld said opportunities such as this offered important knowledge exchange opportunities with researchers operating in a different geographic and cultural context.

CUR member Dr Joe Hurley said it was a mutually beneficial presentation for the centre and its Ethiopian visitors.

“While Ethiopia is one of the least urbanised countries in the world with just 17 per cent of the population living in urban areas, it is experiencing rapid urbanisation and with it significant urban infrastructure, policy and governable challenges,” he said.

The Ethiopian delegates conveyed the need to enhance and develop their tertiary teaching programs in urban planning.

Dr Hurley, who is also the Program Manager of the Bachelor of Urban and Regional Planning in RMIT’s School of Global, Urban and Social Studies (GUSS), said the potential for collaboration with Addis Ababa University at this critical time was an exciting prospect.

“The Addis Ababa University, with the support of the central Ethiopian government, is seeking to grow its urban research capacity and urban focused teaching programs,” he said.

“So there are exciting opportunities for collaboration with both the CUR and the teaching programs in GUSS,” he said.

Originally published on RMIT News.