City on the move: Hawassa, Ethiopia

Hawassa, Ethiopia

Hawassa, Ethiopia

On the shores of Lake Awassa in Ethiopia, lies the city of Hawassa. Since 2017, when the large Hawassa Industrial Park became operational, it is reported the city’s annual GDP growth increased four-fold. The park’s original focus was to lure apparel and textile companies to set up shop in Ethiopia.

According to a representative from the Ethiopian Investment Commission, the park employed more than 35,000 workers before the Covid-19 pandemic hit. This dropped to 26,000 in 2020 but has since increased again.

Hawassa is the capital of the Sidama region, one of three trademarked coffee regions in the country. Abrhame Endrias, the founder and CEO of Lersha – a digital platform linking Ethiopian smallholder farmers with input suppliers – believes the city has a lot of potential for further growth and not just in the textile and apparel industries.

“There is a lot of agriculture production of coffee, avocado and other fruits in the region,” he says, adding that the processing of these crops offers opportunities.

In addition to agriculture and agro-processing, the picturesque location on the lakeshore makes Hawassa ideal for tourism development and the supporting services required.

“While there are already a few hotels built in the city, the tourism service in my opinion is not well developed.” He argues that simply putting up luxury accommodation does not mean that everything is in place to satisfy tourists. Training of tourism service personnel, for instance, could be worth exploring. “Once the hotel is set up, you still need to be able to provide unparalleled quality in service and communication with your guests,” explains Abrhame.

Another opportunity would be to solve the housing challenge as approximately 91% of the workers for the industrial park is migrant labour from the surrounding rural areas.

For Abrhame, this means that opportunity abounds: the location, the industrial park, the fertile land surrounding the city and the increase in population opens up opportunities for businesses across the board in agriculture, construction, commerce and tourism.