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The Horn of Africa’s Qat-22

How the Stimulant Both Drains and Drives the Economy

A man chews qat, which is used as a mild stimulant, May 7, 2012. Feisal Omar / Reuters

In the Horn of Africa, qat, a leafy green plant that is popularly taken as a stimulant, grows all over the hills of Ethiopia. But the finest qat, it is claimed, is found around the prominent eastern cities of Dire Dawa and Harar. In the Babel-like Chattara market in Dire Dawa, qat sellers work late into the night, their stalls lit by a single bulb. Nearby, Aweday, nicknamed Qat City, serves as the hub of Ethiopia’s qat trade, where the substance is shipped to neighboring countries and even overseas. In its town center, bundles of qat are loaded onto trucks that will either travel eastward across the border into Somaliland or Djibouti or be routed to Addis Ababa where it will be flown all over the world: to Brazil, India, Hong Kong, Malawi, and South Africa, which are among the 93 international destinations that Ethiopian qat reaches in total.

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