China-led rail­way project con­nects 2 African na­tions

HighTop lead­ers, lead­ers, dig­ni­taries dig­ni­taries mark mark open­ing open­ing of of ser­vice ser­vice be­tween be­tween Ethiopia, Ethiopia, Dji­bouti Dji­bouti port port

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By PANZHONGMING and LU­CIE MORANGI in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

In the 1970s, China an­chored the con­struc­tion of the Tazara rail­way link­ing Tan­za­nia and Zambia — a project that greatly boosted the two coun­tries’ economies. A lit­tle more than 40 years later, a new episode of rail­way his­tory was writ­ten, again with a Chi­nese help­ing hand, as East Africa’s first mod­ern elec­tri­fied stan­dard gauge rail­way was in­au­gu­rated on Wed­nes­day in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The 750-kilo­me­ter rail­way, built by two Chi­nese com­pa­nies and mainly fi­nanced by a Chi­nese bank, links Addis Aba­bato the Red Sea port city of Dji­bouti. De­signed for a speed of 120 kilo­me­ters per hour, it is ex­pected to re­duce travel time from seven days by road to about 10 hours, and pro­vide land­locked Ethiopia with a faster ac­cess to the Dji­bouti port.

In a cer­e­mony on Wed­nes­day morn­ing, Haile­mariam De­salegn, prime min­is­ter of the Fed­eral Demo­cratic Re­pub­lic of Ethiopia, and his neigh­bor, Is­mail Omar Guelleh, pres­i­dent of the Re­pub­lic of Dji­bouti, cut a red rib­bon of­fi­cially com­mis­sion­ing the in­fra­struc­ture that tra­verses both coun­tries.

The rail­way was de­vel­oped by two Chi­nese firms — China Rail­way En­gi­neer­ing Cor­pand China Civil En­gi­neer­ing Con­struc­tion Corp. China Ex­port and Im­port Bank loaned 70 per­cent of the cap­i­tal.

“This train is a game-changer,” said Mekon­nen Ge­tachew, CEO of the Ethiopian Railways Corp. “Ethiopia is one of the fastest grow­ing economies in Africa. The con­nec­tion to the ports (of Dji­bouti) will give a bounce, and our econ­omy will grow faster.”

In his key­note speech, De­salegn said the $4 bil­lion rail­way project clearly showed Africa’s de­sire and com­mit­ment to speed up the in­te­gra­tion process.

“Ethiopia is once again in the con­ti­nen­tal map as a pioneer to­ward im­ple­ment­ing mod­ern in­fra­struc­ture, courtesy of China,” De­salegn said.

The Dji­bouti pres­i­dent, Guelleh, hailed the project as a sym­bol of friend­ship and in­te­gra­tion be­tween the two neigh­bor­ing coun­tries. He said the project was con­ceived in 1897 but was only made pos­si­ble more than 100 years later by China.

“China has stood by us and has been in­stru­men­tal in build­ing not only our re­gional in­fra­struc­ture but the whole of Africa,” he said. “We see a pros­per­ous fu­ture as a more in­te­grated con­ti­nent. This rail­way rep­re­sents the new face of Africa, which is ready to take charge of its des­tiny.”

Also present were Togo’s Pres­i­dent Faure Es­soz­imna Gnass­ingbe; Xu Shaoshi, spe­cial en­voy of Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping and head of the Na­tional De­vel­op­ment and Re­form Com­mis­sion; and Yuan Xingy­ong, vice-pres­i­dent of Ex­port-Im­port Bank of China.

Xu hailed the rail­way as an achieve­ment of co­op­er­a­tion and friend­ship, call­ing it a road map to the fu­ture, but said more ef­fort should be made to de­velop the local la­bor force.

There will be a three­month test pe­riod of the line. To ad­dress a short­age of rail­way per­son­nel, a mas­sive train­ing pro­gram is be­ing led by China.

In Ethiopia, which hosts most of the line, about 2,000 local stew­ards, tech­ni­cians, driv­ers and oth­ers are re­ceiv­ing train­ing from China Rail­way No 2 En­gi­neer­ing Group, a ma­jor builder and op­er­a­tor of the rail­way.

More than 20,000 work­ers from Ethiopia and 5,000 from Dji­bouti were em­ployed dur­ing the con­struc­tion.

China is a lead­ing builder and op­er­a­tor of railways world­wide. As of the end of 2015, the coun­try had put 121,000 kilo­me­ters of rail lines into ser­vice, in­clud­ing 19,000 km of high-speed rail.


Ste­wardess trainees for the Ethipia-Dji­bouti rail­way, a China-sup­ported project, re­ceive eti­quette in­struc­tion from their Chi­nese coun­ter­parts in Addis Ababa, Ethopia, on Satur­day. The new rail­way's launch was cel­e­brated on Wed­nes­day.

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