Bahir Dar, Ethiopia, 21 August 2020 – Ethiopia’s Minister of Urban Development and Construction Ms. Aisha Mohammed laid a cornerstone in a ceremony in the northern city of  Bahir Dar to mark the beginning of the redesign of markets in the country to curb the spread of COVID-19. The guidelines on the redesign were produced by UN-Habitat and funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).

 “These new guidelines promote physical distancing, controlled access to the markets, crowd control in markets as well as the observance of personal hygiene.  This will ensure the provision of  essential food to communities, and that markets are safe spaces for making and sustaining livelihoods and reduce the risk of the spread of COVID-19 and other diseases,” Haregewoin Bekele, an urban planner with UN-Habitat, said at the event.

A local street in the city will be used as an extension of the market with markers to designate spots for the women’s market. In the main market there will be spaced queues, physical distancing markers between shoppers, safety barriers between vendors and shoppers and hygiene centres at the entrances.

Where the markets are extremely congested, some  traders will be relocated to other open spaces. In Fara Gebaya market in Hawassa city, where a pilot is being run, part of the market will be moved to another open space while the main market is retrofitted. The new relocation site is 8,000 square metres and is designed to accommodate 280 vendors.

Tiratu Beyene and Amare Alemu the Deputy Mayors of the two cities welcomed the initiative and pledged joint cooperation. “Open markets are a common means of livelihood in Ethiopia. We are therefore very grateful for this intervention that will ensure that our people are safe as they earn their daily bread,” said Mr Alemu.

UN-Habitat has ensured that the new  market designs will be practical and sustainable beyond the pandemic. The two pilot markets should be completed within two months to be followed by a major roll out of markets innovations across Ethiopia, drawing from lessons learn in the pilot runs.