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Ethiopia’s fast lane to growth

Posted by Ethio Tribune on March 11, 2013

The iconic Giza Pyramids seen in the background as a security officer patrols on his camel in Cairo

Camels rather than locomotives lumber over the railway tracks in the Ethiopian desert traversed by storied French adventurers Arthur Rimbaud and Henry de Monfreid in the early 20th century.

But the old French-built railway that connected Addis Ababa, the capital, to the Red Sea port of Djibouti, is now being replaced by a Chinese-built electrified railway, a bold project to boost Ethiopia’s commercial exports.

The project also symbolises a shift in Ethiopia’s international relations.

“You see nowadays that the dices are thrown differently. Chinese, Indian [and] Turkish interests are now taking over . times have changed,” said Hugues Fontaine, author of the recently published book Un Train en Afrique (African Train), about the historic Ethiopian train.

 

Indeed, Ethiopia is casting its dice eastward, seeking investors to help it achieve its grandiose growth and transformation plan, which seeks to boost economic growth and achieve middle-income status by 2025.

Shanghai High-Speedway RailwayThe construction of the railway is a key component of the plan: eight rail corridors totalling 4744km, creating a series of key trade routes to neighbouring Kenya, South Sudan, Sudan and – crucially – to Djibouti’s port.

Two Chinese companies are contracted to build the R25-billion line connecting Addis Ababa to the Djiboutian border by 2016, and Turkish and Brazilian companies are slated to construct other segments of the nationwide rail network.

Zacharia Jemal, project manager for the Ethiopian Railways Corporation, said the project would create 5000 local jobs, and allow Ethiopia to boost exports of key commodities such as coffee and sesame. It also offers the opportunity to get Ethiopian workers trained by engineers from the Chinese Civil Engineering Construction Corporation.

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