In­fra­struc­ture Lead­ing the Way

China’s help in africa’s in­fra­struc­ture sec­tor pro­motes re­gional eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and im­proves life­styles

ChinAfrica - - OPINION - By Ge Li­jun

dji­bouti is lo­cated on the East African coast and shares a bor­der with Ethiopia. Formerly some­what iso­lated, this Horn of Africa coun­try now has a state-of-the-art in­ter­na­tional rail­way, which has greatly im­proved peo­ple’s abil­ity to com­mute.

Built by China Civil Engi­neer­ing Con­struc­tion Corp. (CCECC), the Ad­dis AbabaDji­bouti Rail­way came into ser­vice on Jan­uary 1 this year. The peo­ple of Dji­bouti can now travel on a mod­ern and com­fort­able train to the city of Dire Dawa in east Ethiopia, in just four hours, com­pared to 18 hours by bus be­fore.

It is there­fore not sur­pris­ing that since its open­ing, pas­sen­ger and goods traf­fic has in­creased. In the first half of 2018, the rail­way car­ried a to­tal of 55,000 pas­sen­gers, thus be­com­ing the No.1 trans­port mode in the coun­try.

In fact, the Ad­dis Ababa-dji­bouti Rail­way is just one ex­am­ple of the many in­fra­struc­ture projects con­tribut­ing to the well-be­ing of lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties through­out Africa that came into be­ing with the sup­port of China. In De­cem­ber 2015, at the Jo­han­nes­burg Sum­mit of the Fo­rum on China-africa Co­op­er­a­tion (FOCAC), China an­nounced 10 ma­jor China-africa co­op­er­a­tion projects, in­clud­ing the co­op­er­a­tion plan in the in­fra­struc­ture sec­tor. With this de­ci­sion, co­op­er­a­tion in this area gained sig­nif­i­cant mo­men­tum.

A suc­cess model

On the other side of the con­ti­nent, the Kaleta Dam, lo­cated on the Konk­ouré River in south­west Guinea has sig­nif­i­cantly im­proved the coun­try’s elec­tric­ity sup­ply. The dam was built by China In­ter­na­tional Wa­ter and Elec­tric Corp. (CWE), and the elec­tric­ity it gen­er­ates is dis­trib­uted to Con­akry, the cap­i­tal of Guinea, via five power sub­sta­tions and a 158-km power line. In Septem­ber 2015, the plant was of­fi­cially launched, pro­vid­ing elec­tric­ity to thou­sands of house­holds in the cap­i­tal.

Kaleta Dam has re­ceived praise from the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity. In July 2017, a joint del­e­ga­tion made up of rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the African Union, the African De­vel­op­ment Bank and the Ger­man Tech­ni­cal Co­op­er­a­tion Agency vis­ited the dam to as­sess first­hand its im­pact on lo­cal pop­u­la­tion. This joint mis­sion was part of the Pro­gram for In­fra­struc­ture De­vel­op­ment in Africa (PIDA).

Ac­cord­ing to Africa-based pub­li­ca­tion La Tri­bune Afrique, PIDA Co­or­di­na­tor Sheikh Di­akhate praised the project, stress­ing that Kaleta Dam fig­ured among the “suc­cess­ful ex­am­ples of en­ergy projects” on the African con­ti­nent.

But this dam faced ma­jor prob­lems in its con­struc­tion. Just when the project reached a crit­i­cal stage at the be­gin­ning of 2014, Guinea was struck by the Ebola epi­demic. How­ever, de­spite high risks, Chi­nese of­fi­cials de­cided not to aban­don their posts and car­ried on with the project.

“There were more than 1,000 Chi­nese em­ploy­ees and more than 2,000 African em­ploy­ees on the site. If we had stopped, the con­struc­tion would have been de­layed by one year, which would have re­sulted in huge losses. More­over, the most im­por­tant thing is that this de­lay would have harmed Sino-guinean friend­ship,” said Zhang Ru­jun, As­sis­tant Di­rec­tor Gen­eral of CWE.

With the help of the Chi­nese Em­bassy in Guinea and ex­perts from the Chi­nese med­i­cal mis­sion, none of the Chi­nese or African em­ploy­ees were in­fected by the virus dur­ing the project’s con­struc­tion.

“Em­ploy­ees from both coun­tries over­came dif­fi­cul­ties to­gether and fi­nally com­pleted the con­struc­tion of the hy­dro­elec­tric plant, which has strength­ened the deep friend­ship be­tween our two peo­ples. The Guinean peo­ple will not for­get the friends who stood by them in dif­fi­cult times,” said Kanny Diallo, Guinea’s Min­is­ter of Plan­ning and In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tion.

In­te­grat­ing the re­gion

An­other ex­am­ple of in­fra­struc­ture projects im­prov­ing peo­ple’s lives on the con­ti­nent is the Mom­basa-nairobi Stan­dard Gauge Rail­way (SGR) in Kenya. One year af­ter its com­mis­sion­ing, aca­demics from sev­eral Chi­nese and African think tanks took part in the China-africa In­fra­struc­ture Co­op­er­a­tion Sem­i­nar held in Nairobi in June 2018. As part of the sem­i­nar, they vis­ited the ter­mi­nus, the op­er­a­tion and main­te­nance cen­ter and the con­tainer ware­house of the stan­dard gauge rail­way.

Af­ter the visit, Lemma Sen­bet, Di­rec­tor Gen­eral of the African Eco­nomic Re­search Con­sor­tium in Africa, stated that “this visit al­lowed us to bet­ter ap­pre­ci­ate the role played by this rail­way in re­gional in­te­gra­tion and knowl­edge trans­fer. [The Mom­basa-nairobi SGR] proves that it is in Africa’s in­ter­est to strengthen co­op­er­a­tion with China in im­prov­ing or build­ing new roads, new ports and new rail­ways.”

the mom­basanairobi sgr is a great project, which has the ca­pac­ity to pro­mote the re­gion’s eco­nomic in­te­gra­tion. it is our re­spon­si­bil­ity to strengthen our part­ner­ship with china as we im­prove our net­work of roads, ports and rail­ways. AUGUSTINO TING MAYAI an econ­o­mist at the Univer­sity of Juba, South Su­dan

Ex­perts also gave their full sup­port to the sec­ond phase of the project, which will reach the Kenya-uganda bor­der by 2021. The project is part of the North­ern Cor­ri­dor, an in­fra­struc­ture pack­age aimed at strength­en­ing con­nec­tiv­ity in East Africa.

“[It] is a great project, which has the ca­pac­ity to pro­mote the re­gion’s eco­nomic in­te­gra­tion. It is our re­spon­si­bil­ity to strengthen our part­ner­ship with China as we im­prove our net­work of roads, ports and rail­ways,” said Augustino Ting Mayai, an econ­o­mist at the Univer­sity of Juba, South Su­dan, adding that such in­fra­struc­ture is a key step in open­ing East Africa and the Horn of Africa to in­vest­ment and in­dus­trial growth.

* Com­ments to


The Kariba South Power Sta­tion Ex­ten­sion Project built by a Chi­nese com­pany in Zim­babwe. Hy­dro dams of this na­ture are help­ing African coun­tries to sta­bi­lize their power sup­plies

A train runs along the newly built Ad­dis Ababadji­bouti Rail­way

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