ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — A new trend is on the rise in Ethiopia: skateboarding. The sport has proven to build community, provide transportation and even increase economic opportunities in the African country.
In Ethiopia, cars are considered unaffordable for the majority of the population, and public transportation is often overcrowded. This has led to a rise in the country’s skateboarder culture, as many Ethiopians have been using skateboarding not only as a sport and leisure activity, but also as their primary means of transportation.
For the past few years, skateboarding has grown among the younger population with help from the group Ethiopia Skate, started by Abenezer Temesgen and Sean Stromsoe in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Ethiopia Skate plans on continuing the spread of skateboarding culture throughout the country, and wants to build Ethiopia’s first skate park. They have a simple, direct motto of “We just wanna skate.”
Abenezer Temesgen states, “For low-income children who cannot afford bicycles, yet still need to access education and job opportunities, skating can get them where they need to be just a little faster. Added to this, skating demands practice, it demands a community to learn from and it promotes a healthy, active lifestyle.”
Temesgen mentions in the statement that not only will skateboarding in Ethiopia strengthen the local community, but it will also act as a way of revamping public transportation and increasing opportunities for young people. Once one has access to a skateboard, he or she can shorten their walking commute, cut down their bus fares and even reduce their carbon footprint.
The increase in skateboarding culture has correlated with a reduction in congestion on the streets, and an increase in mobility among young people. This can be seen in Brazil following the completion of Parque Madureira, and in Mexico following the Chapultepec Park’s construction.
A hindrance to the skateboarding boom in Ethiopia has been the accessibility and cost of boards, with none being made locally, and the import costs for supplies and boards being high. Luckily, that is on its way to being resolved.
Design student Daniel Scheidler has created a wheel that uses local materials, and can be made and sold within Ethiopia.
The materials include spray foam insulation, a reusable mold, fiberglass coating and leather from used car tires. The design was made to be versatile, where small-scale local manufacturers can adapt or enhance it based on their own resources.
The simple wheel design not only makes it easier to skate in Ethiopia, but it also comes with economic benefits. A wheel being made in Ethiopia saves the consumers’ money by giving them a local, cheaper option than importing wheels from other countries.
A locally made wheel also provides the opportunity for jobs, where businesses can employ people to make and sell the wheels.
The wheel is also being made environmentally friendly, using materials easily found or recycled.
While Ethiopia’s streets are not quite lined up with skateboarders yet, they are well on their way. With positive changes in areas that have embraced skateboarding culture, the expanding trend is something worth celebrating.
– Courtney Prentice
Sources: Africa Gadget, Ice Addis, Frank, Planetizen, Sustainable Cities Collective, The Reporter Ethiopia
Photo: Huck Magazine