World Bank: In Amhara high‑Poverty, high Malnutrition and lesser Economic and Infrastructure development

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New World Bank Report Shows High Road Density in Tigray and Addis, the Least in Amhara region መንገዶች በትግራይና አዲስ አበባ ሲስፋፉ በአማራ ክልል ግን አላደጉም: አለም ባንክ

The report published by the World Bank based on a spatial review of Ethiopian road density within 10 years (2006-2016), showed that the highest road densities within the 10 years were recorded in Addis Abeba and its surrounding Oromia towns and Tigray region while the least road networks or densities had been found in Amhara region in particular and rural areas across the country. By virtue of these findings, the investments and infrastructural developments in these regions also mirror the road densities.

Similarly, World Bank’s visualization based on data from NOAA’s VIIRS Satellite showed that Mekele has the highest level of total brightness and average brightness of of nighttime lights whereas Gonder has the least level of total brightness and average brightness of nighttime lights.

The report follows…

What Studies in Spatial Development Show in Ethiopia-Part I

The Country Partnership Framework (CPF) for the coming five years in Ethiopia, approved by the World Bank board in June, features a “spatial lens” for development activities. This lens was developed in a background note we wrote evaluating spatial disparities and their related challenges. In it, we looked at the policy framework put forward by the 2009 World Development Report “Reshaping Economic Geography,” and combined it with literature on pro-poor growth. Together, these have allowed us to put forward policy solutions Ethiopia could adopt to bridge spatial disparities.

In this three-part blog series, we present the key findings of our note, as well as broad, overarching policy solutions.

The guiding questions in our evaluation were: How to integrate the poorest, rural, bottom 40 percent (“Bottom 40” or “B40”) of the population in the overall growth process? How can areas of high B40 concentration be better linked to centers of economic activity?

We also looked at how to create larger urban centers, ones to which rural areas can be linked? And how to increase the capacity of these urban centers to address urban poverty?

Rapid economic growth

Ethiopia is a fast-growing economy, with double-digit growth in the past decade, and prior growth that also drastically reduced poverty from 2000 to 2011—from 55.3 to 33.5 per cent of the population (based on the poverty rate of US$1.90/day). Despite its large population of about 100 million, the country also has one of the world’s lowest rates of inequality, with a Gini coefficient of 0.3.

That said, rapid growth has not reduced inequality for the very poorest.

For instance, the Systematic Country Diagnostic (SCD) showed that the poorest 10 percent of the population experienced a decline in consumption, implying that reductions in overall poverty rates were not matched by reductions in its depth and severity among all those experiencing it.

For analysis on this, we conducted geo-mapping exercises, and verified findings against data available for Ethiopia.

First, figures 1a and b illustrate the distribution and the density of the Bottom 40 across Ethiopia at the woreda (district) level, where we see that there exist both inter- and intra-regional disparities in poverty and human welfare indicators, confirming the geographic unevenness of progress. Figure 1 shows that within regions some woredas are poorer than others.

Figure 1: Spatial distribution of poverty and malnutrition
a) Distribution of the bottom 40 percent

b) Density of the bottom 40 percent

The density of the B40 mirrors population density, and shows that there exist deeper pockets of poverty in areas of dense population. At regional level, regions that are constitutionally denominated as historically underserved (Somali, Afar, Gambela, and Benishangul-Gumuz) also see variations, with some being worse off—such as Afar in the north-east and Somali in the south-east of Ethiopia—on multidimensional poverty indicators, while others perform better than the national average, such as Gambela in the south-west. Malnutrition rates also display similar patterns (Figure 1c).

Figure 1c: Malnutrition in Ethiopia: distribution of stunted children

In contrast to this, deep pockets of poverty also exist within regions that are not considered historically underserved.

The 2009 World Development Report asserts that even if economic growth is concentrated in specific parts of a country (and can therefore be unequal), development can be inclusive if, among other things, the economic distance between the poor and the thriving parts of the nation can be reduced, and if welfare policies ensure the convergence of basic living standards for everyone.

In Ethiopia, the expansion of basic services in all areas has been achieved, helping bridge development gaps and making significant progress in terms of poverty reduction, with regions with the highest poverty rates seeing more rapid progress.

Literature on pro-poor growth dictates that economic growth is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for reducing poverty and inequality. The real impact economic growth has on these also depends on the sectoral composition of growth. Labor-intensive sectors like agriculture and light manufacturing, for example, have a greater impact on poverty reduction than less labor-intensive sectors.

To get a better understanding of where economic concentration lies in Ethiopia, and how cities are growing, in Part II of our blog we look at six key, secondary cities, and the changes they have seen in road density over the ten years between 2006 and 2016.

We also look at changes in nightlights (or lights at night-time, indicating the use of electricity at night) in the four years between 2012 and 2016.

Data provided by DEC survey unit. Maps produced by the Data Management Unit.


What Studies in Spatial Development Show in Ethiopia-Part II

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In Part I of our blog —based on a background note we wrote for the World Bank’s 2017–2022 Country Partnership Framework for Ethiopia—we presented our key findings on the spatial or regional distribution of poverty and child malnutrition in Ethiopia.

In Part II of our blog, we look at changes in road density over the ten years from 2006 to 2016, and in nightlights in six cities over four years from 2012 to 2016.

Changes in road density pointed to greater economic concentration towards the center of Ethiopia and the north of the country. These are also areas of greater population density. Figure 2a shows that, between 2006 and 2016, the increase in road density was concentrated in certain regions, notably Ethiopia’s capital of Addis Ababa, as well as Tigray in the north of the country and in Oromia in the center.

Figure 2a: Changes in road density and length between 2006 and 2016

Source: World Bank visualization based on data from various UN agencies

Figure 2b: Rural Access Index (RAI) and major roads in 2016

Source: World Bank visualization based on data RAI (World Bank).

Remote and economically lagging regions, and Amhara Region, see lesser increases in road density. Taking the development of roads as a proxy for the development of infrastructure, this suggests that infrastructure development has not been homogeneous across all regions. It also shows that road connectivity for some regions is poor, both within those regions and with other regions, with consequences for labor mobility, the transportation of goods and services, and for agricultural productivity as the distance and travel times to markets are longer.

Despite the large infrastructure investments undertaken by the Ethiopian government in the past ten years, accessibility by road to rural areas remains low in Ethiopia; we can see its distribution across the country in Figure 2b. The Rural Access Index was 21.6 percent in 2016, signifying that only around 22 percent of the rural population had access within a 2km distance of them to a “decent” road.

Twinkle, twinkle little light

Finally, we look at nightlights in some of the secondary cities. From Figure 3 it could be interpreted that urban GDP is stagnant as there were no significant changes in the density or distribution of night-time lights over the period of 2012–2016, even though urbanization outside Addis Ababa was ongoing and urban poverty has been reduced since 2012.

As per the World Development Report 2009, nightlights are not a good proxy for GDP; however, differences in the pattern of nightlights over a given time are correlated with changes in GDP. In figures 3a-b, we see that the trend of nightlights across several secondary cities in Ethiopia remains constant. Therefore, secondary cities don’t seem to grow in keeping with Addis Ababa, the largest urban center of the country.

Figure 3: Spatial dimension of nightlights
a) Total brightness of nighttime lights

Source: World Bank visualization based on data from NOAA’s VIIRS Satellite.

b) Average brightness of nighttime lights.

Source: World Bank visualization based on data from NOAA’s VIIRS Satellite


The significant increase in GDP witnessed by Ethiopia is primarily due to growth in agriculture in rural areas and in the service sector. The country’s push for developing its manufacturing sector is relatively recent and might explain the figures for secondary cities better. It is likely that secondary cities are witnessing growth in the service sector—and not in industrial or manufacturing sectors—and that this growth is therefore not resulting in any significant changes in the number or density of nightlights.

In addition, the influx of migrants into Addis Ababa is higher than in other secondary cities, suggesting that real and perceived opportunities lag behind in secondary cities.

Combining our analytical findings with our visualization of spatial development, we concluded that spatial development outcomes could be increased through interventions, primarily in four areas, which will we explore in Part III of our blog series.

Data provided by DEC survey unit. Maps produced by the Data Management Unit.