Elsevier, Habitat International, Volume 117, November 2021
Ethiopia has experienced rapid urbanization over the past three decades. Several cities expanded rapidly and many satellite towns sprung up around the major cities. The high rate of urbanization and urban growth resulted in high demand for urban land, mainly for industrial, commercial, and residential purposes. In order to meet the demand, an enormous amount of land has been made available for urban use, mainly through land conversion. However, we know very little about how efficiently cities use urban land. This paper investigated the urban land use efficiency (ULUE) of sixteen cities in Ethiopia. Remote sensing data (Landsat 7/8) was analysed with ArcGIS to assess spatiotemporal land use changes between 2007 and 2019. Built-up environment footprints were computed from Google Earth imagery. The ratio of land consumption to population growth rate, and the rate of urban infill were assessed. The findings revealed a prevalence of urban land use inefficiencies in all cities. In most cities, the rate of land consumption far exceeds the population growth rate. Densification (urban infill) is low and slow. A considerable part of the converted agricultural land sits idle within the built-up area for many years. Low ULUE is what fuels urban sprawl, fragmentation and informal settlements. This study emphasised the need to implement urban policies and practices aimed at improving ULUE. Improving ULUE is imperative to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals; ensuring sustainable urban land use; addressing land prices and housing shortages; protecting farmland and ecosystems; tackling land hoarding, urban sprawl and informal settlements.