Prime minister Abiy Ahmed’s plans to beautify Ethiopia’s capital city, Addis Ababa received a major boost over the weekend when more than 200 people paid an eye-watering $173,000 (150,000 euros) to attend a fundraising dinner.
The state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate published pictures of diners, some wearing tuxedos, seated at a long rose-covered banquet table.
“A seat at the event is valued at 5 million birr,” the report said, adding that “over 200 individuals, representatives from local and international organizations” took part in the event.
The dinner was held to raise funds for a three-year project by Abiy to “lift the image” of the capital, a bustling, fast-changing city where modern buildings have shot up, construction is everywhere and greenery scarce.
“The rapid growth and expansion of the city over the past few years has not adequately utilised the natural resources and beautiful topography that the city is endowed with,” according to a video of the project posted on Abiy’s website.
The video said that currently green cover is only 0.3 square metres per capita in Addis Ababa, and the project hopes to raise this to seven square metres per capita, in line with average green coverage in Africa.
The project along an area of 56 square kilometres (21 square miles) envisions parks, bicycle paths and walkways along the rivers of the capital, the planting of trees and the development of urban farms.
It is estimated to cost $1 billion, according to Fana.
Abiy’s website said that those present at the dinner would have a plaque with their name on it placed along the project route, and would have a private photo-op with the prime minister. The pictures would be compiled into “an album of individuals who changed the face of Addis Ababa.”
Abiy has won praise for his reformist agenda since taking office in April last year.
Ethiopia is home to more than 100 million people, the second most populous country on the continent after Nigeria, and its economy is the fastest growing in the region.
However, it is also one of the poorest, with the World Bank estimating average earnings of $783 per year.
Abiy’s dinner drew criticism on social media with some Ethiopians questioning whether the project was really a priority for the country.