The Success of Urban Expansion Planning

in Mekele, Ethiopia Serves as Blueprint for African Cities


Mekele was one of four regional capitals in Ethiopia whose officials were trained in urban-expansion planning in 2013 by Solly Angel and his NYU Urban Expansion Program team. The officials returned to Mekele and implemented what they’d been trained in. In November 2023, Cities Alliance organized a high-level, peer-learning event in Mekele on urban-expansion planning. Mayors from Ethiopian, Ugandan, and Somaliland cities and senior central-government officials signed the Mekele Declaration of Cities, committing to supporting urban growth that is planned, inclusive, and sustainable. A Cities Alliance press release notes:

In 2013, Mekelle was one of four pilot cities (in addition to Adama, Bahir Dar, and Hawassa) selected in partnership with the former Ministry of Urban Development and Construction and New York University (NYU) to participate in the pioneering Ethiopian Urban Expansion Initiative. The NYU Marron Institute of Urban Management introduced the Urban Expansion Planning approach and supported the pilot....

In 10 years, the city has successfully implemented the first two of five planned phases and constructed over 120 km of asphalt road. The developed expansion areas have provided access to affordable housing and basic services to many new residents, as well as locations for businesses and industries in and outside of an international and a local industrial park. Mekelle’s expansion area now hosts an airport, a medical school, and a teaching hospital....

The Honorable Obiga Kania, State Minister for Urban Development at the Ugandan Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, summed up the value of the visit to Mekelle: “I have learned about the importance of proactive and long-term physical development planning ... People coming to the city know where to settle. It is easier to guide them and for government to provide services.”

Read the Cities Alliance Press Release

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