Cities in transition need strategies to do more and better using less or limited resources, i.e., to be frugal in approach, especially when implementing expensive infrastructures. Addis-Ababa city in recent years acquired the light-rail transport (LRT) from China, which entails different multi-actors interacting to achieve resource-efficient LRT in terms of cost, technical knowledge and time. Addis-Ababa re-organized their organizational structure to interact with multi-actors, in providing affordable LRT, measurable technological transfer and learning routine via structured absorptive capacity, delivering an environmentally sound electrified light-rail, as a zero-carbon emission transport system. Using mixed research methods, consisting of light-rail expert's semi-structured interviews and passenger surveys, this article aims to know how the multi-actor interaction processes and absorptive capacity structure have delivered frugality in urban rail transport. Thus, delivering the LRT, despite inadequate country-owned financial resources, less technological and knowledge capability of LRT, within a limited period of three years. Results show that frugality strongly depends on the structure of absorptive capacity and the process of multi-actor interactions. In addition, tacit knowledge developed by Addis-Ababa, as an existing knowledge base is vital in harnessing the explicit knowledge provided by China. This frugally delivered light-rail consequently brought changes to the low-income passengers, including some part of the bottom of the pyramid (PoB) category, and a fraction of modal shift from other motorized transport modes to the light-rail public transport.

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Journal of Urban Management
Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies (IHS)

Alade, T., Edelenbos, J., & Gianoli, A. (2019). Frugality in multi-actor interactions and absorptive capacity of Addis-Ababa light-rail transport. Journal of Urban Management. doi:10.1016/j.jum.2019.11.003