Ethiopia: Infrastructure

Climate change is expected to significantly affect Ethiopian infrastructure through extreme weather events, such as floods and droughts. High precipitation amounts can lead to flooding of transport infrastructure including roads, railroads and airports, while high temperatures can cause roads, bridges and protective structures to develop cracks and degrade more quickly. This will require earlier replacement and lead to higher maintenance and replacement costs [23]. Transport infrastructure is vulnerable to extreme weather events, yet essential for agricultural livelihoods. Roads serve communities to trade goods and access healthcare, education, credit and other services. Especially in rural areas, roads are the backbone of Ethiopia’s transportation network with more than 90 % of exports and imports transported by road [24]. Investments will have to be made into building climate-resilient road networks [25].

Extreme weather events will also have devastating effects on human settlements and economic production sites, especially in urban areas with high population densities like Addis Ababa, Dire Dawa or Mekelle. Informal settlements are particularly vulnerable to extreme weather events: Makeshift homes are often built in unstable geographical locations including steep slopes or river banks, where flooding can lead to loss of housing, contamination of water, injury or death. Dwellers usually have low adaptive capacity to respond to such events due to high levels of poverty and lack of risk-reducing infrastructures. For example, heavy rains in May and June 2019 have caused flooding in 38 districts across seven regions of Ethiopia, displacing 42306 families and causing livestock death and property damage [26]. Flooding and droughts will also affect hydropower generation: Ethiopia is planning to increase its hydropower capacity from 3.7 gigawatts in 2015 to a volume of 19.5 gigawatts in 2030, however, variability in precipitation and climatic conditions could severely disrupt hydropower generation [27].

Figure 12: Projections of major roads exposed to river floods at least once a year for Ethiopia for different GHG emissions scenarios.
Figure 13: Projections of urban land area exposed to river floods at least once a year for Ethiopia for different GHG emissions scenarios.

Despite the risk of infrastructure damage being likely to increase due to climate change, precise predictions on specific location and extent of exposure are difficult to make. For example, projections of river flood events are subject to substantial modelling uncertainty, largely due to the uncertainty of future projections of precipitation amounts and their spatial distribution, affecting flood occurrence (see also Figure 4). Among the models applied for this analysis, two models project only a slight increase and one model projects a stronger increase in the exposure of major roads to river floods at least once a year. The very likely range of model results indicates that road exposure to floods may increase by 70 % by 2080 (from 1.3 % of the national road network exposed in 2000 to 2.1 % in 2080). However, projections are characterised by high modelling uncertainty with median projections for RCP6.0 showing only a 0.2 % change from 2000 to 2080 (Figure 12). Hence, no reliable estimations on future occurrence of river floods can be made. Also, urban land area exposed to floods at least once a year is projected to increase (Figure 13), with a very likely range of 0.1–1.1 % by 2080 under RCP6.0.

Figure 14: Exposure of GDP in Ethiopia to heatwaves for different GHG emissions scenarios.

With the exposure of the GDP to heatwaves projected to increase from around 0.3 % in 2000 to 1.4 % (RCP2.6) and 2.8 % (RCP6.0) by the end of the century, economic policy planners are advised to start identifying heat-sensitive production sites and activities, and integrating climate adaptation strategies such as improved solar-powered cooling systems or switching the operating hours from day to night.


[23] Ministry of Transport of Ethiopia, “Ethiopia’s Climate Resilient Transport Sector Strategy,” Addis Ababa.
[24] EPCC, “First Assessment Report – Summary of Reports for Policy Makers,” Addis Ababa, 2015.
[25] T. Gebre and F. Nigussa, “Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Measures in the Urban Road Transport Sector of Ethiopia,” Environ. Prog. Sustain. Energy, vol. 38, no. 5, pp. 1–8, 2019.
[26] OCHA, “Ethiopia: Situation Report No. 23,” 2019.
[27] D. Conway, P. Curran, and K. E. Gannon, “Policy brief: Climate risks to hydropower supply in eastern and southern Africa,” no. August, 2018.