Salambo in Addis

Salambo discovering Ethiopia

The number plates game

Among the particularities of Addis Ababa is the number plate system, which is coded in such a way that it becomes very easy to know who the car belongs to. According to the system here, number plates have different colours and different numbers, depending on ownership.  So for instance, taxis and minibuses have red plates with the number 1 on them, because they are part of the privately-owned city transport system.

Red number plate for taxis in Addis

Individual cars have a blue plate with the number 2 on it, while company cars have a green plate numbered 3.  Government car plates are black with the number 4; Non-governmental organizations’ ones are orange with the number 5.  And that’s not it.

a privately-owned car in Addis

The system is further complicated by the diplomatic plates coding, which enables to instantly recognize the country of origin. According to the CD classification here, Italy is number 01 because it was the first country to have a diplomatic representation in Ethiopia, while France followed with the number 02. Then 03 is for the UK, and 04 for the US, and so on. The list is long with the many countries having a diplomatic representation in Ethiopia. Addis Ababa is actually the diplomatic capital of Africa, being the seat of the African Union, Africa’s answer to the European Union, as well as a regional centre for many international organisations. For this reason, many countries have a double representation: one to the Ethiopian government and one to the African Union.

The other day, I was chatting to a French friend of mine just outside a gym, and after about 10 minutes as she got into her car, and I got into mine, the driver (who was there waiting for me and heard she was French) asked me if she was married to an American national, because he saw the number 04 on her car registration plate. She IS married to an American national, who works for a US government organisation!! So that’s a favourite passtime on the roads of Addis, car and people guessing!  I personnally begin to see the limitations of being driven around everywhere, but because of lengthy administration procedures, I still cannot drive myself. I now realise that although it is stress-free to be on the roads of Addis with a personal driver, it brings new complications. Day after day, the driver becomes increasingly more part of our life, so what I gain in personal convenience I lose in freedom of movement. I’m being escorted to the market, into the shops, to the swimming pool, to the school, through the city, everywhere. At the very moment, I just want to have two hours walking around town on my own. I experience it as an invasion of my private space, but that’s my own view. Everything is about personal perception.


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This entry was posted on December 5, 2011 by in Living in Addis and tagged , , , , .

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