It is estimated that at least 80% of Addis Ababa’s urban population lives in slum defined settlements which are populated by the urban poor, in dilapidated conditions, overcrowded, and generally lack access to basic services. The government therefore promotes a large-scale city-wide approach to effectively address the multitude of problems. This takes shape in two practices: (1) government initiated area-wise renewal and (2) plot wise renewal by the private sector. In this regards, the Chinese government is increasingly engaged as a stakeholder in the private sector and by now well-represented in urban development projects in Ethiopia, through both Chinese state-owned and private companies, often via public-private partnerships. Chinese urban projects in Ethiopia include; the Eastern Industrial Zone (Dukum), Poli Lotus International Centre (Addis Ababa), the new Headquarter for the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (Addis Ababa) and the Light Rail Train (LRT) (Addis Ababa).

Until recently academics mainly focused on China’s presence in Africa in terms of natural resources and extractives, infrastructure, industrial and agricultural development projects. However, while Chinese investments in housing and urban development are increasingly reaching Africa (as a ‘last frontier’ for global capital), little is known about China’s engagement with urban development projects in Africa. With this study we aim to capture China’s presence in Ethiopia’s urban sector through highlighting the projects’ cultural and financial trajectories, and their (potential) impacts in terms of equitable and sustainable development. What types of urban models are being implemented, and what views of modernization and development are invoked? What types of urban transformations and effects can be expected, e.g. in terms of access to land and housing? This research is based on analysis of both primary sources (in-depth interviews with key stakeholders and residents) and secondary sources (policy and planning documents) and focuses on both commercial and residential projects.