Infrastructure Leading the Way
China’s help in africa’s infrastructure sector promotes regional economic development and improves lifestyles
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.
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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