This little story brought more than just the one gurgle, snort. Ethiopia is one of the poorer places on the planet – getting richer, certainly, but from that starting point of the sort of Stone Age poverty of the imposition of Soviet-style socialism upon a place. Poor places tend to not have many cars in them. And yet Ethiopia has just had its second national car free day. Why bother in a place which, statistically, doesn’t have any cars at all?
Ethiopians in cities across the country participated in the second edition of a Car Free Day event championed by the Ministry of Health. From the capital Addis Ababa to Dire Dawa, Bahir Dar, Hawassa, Adama, Jimma, Mekelle and Jigiga, citizens turned up in their numbers to walk the streets and to participate in other forms of exercise. Today (January 13) event was the second edition following the maiden edition that was held in December 2018.
Twice in under a month? They might be taking this a little too seriously.
Just by comparison, San Marino has 1,263 cars per thousand people. And if city states don’t quite do it for you, the United States has 910 cars per thousand people. Ethiopia has 8 cars per 000 from the same data source. Yes, a place with less than 1% of the car ownership of the world’s large rich nation is having car free days.
There is something other than just a giggle here. Poor places are poor because they’re not using the same technologies as richer places. That’s just what the difference between being poor and rich is – using or not using those wealth enhancing technologies. It’s also true that a technology is just a way of doing something. Walmart is a retail services technology, ditto Amazon, a car is just a transport technology as is Shanks’ Pony.
However, it isn’t true that all technologies in use in rich places are in fact wealth enhancing. Both the UK and US have legislation insisting upon the use of the technology of diversity advisers. This adds to the wealth of neither place, it detracts as it diverts the at least potentially useful labour of those advisers into doing something of negative value. Thus it is not true that just copying any technology or arrangement in use in a rich place is wealth enhancing to a poor one. Car free days where there are, to a reasonable level of accuracy, no cars would be one of those that isn’t.