by Xinhua writers Wang
Xiangjiang, Wang Shoubao and Yao Yuan ADDIS ABABA Ethiopia (Xinhua)
-- African people cherish a dream that one
day the capitals of all African countries will be linked by
high-speed railways, Chairperson of African Union Commission
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma once said.
Perhaps, the African
people have never come closer in their endeavor towards making the
dream a reality.
On Wednesday, Africa’s first modern electrified railway—the
Ethiopia-Djibouti railway built by Chinese firms, is set to become
With the inception of what has been hailed as the "Tazara railway
in a new era", a new chapter will be turned over in Africa’s railway
history, while a new milestone will be set up in China-Africa
During a visit to Ethiopia in May 2013, Chinese Vice Premier Wang
Yang hailed the Ethiopia-Djibouti railway as the "Tazara railway in
a new era."
In 1970s, China, where a thousand things still waited to be done,
resolved to support the construction of the Tazara railway which
links Tanzania’s Dar es Salaam with Zambia’s Kapiri Mposhi.
More than 50,000 Chinese railway workers worked for construction
of the railway.
Among them, 64 Chinese experts made the ultimate sacrifice in a
land far away from home.
But Tazara Railway has since become a symbol for China-Africa
friendship which opened a new era of development for China-Africa
China has since put on top agenda its assistance to African
countries in building infrastructures.
He who wants to get rich must first build roads.
This is one of the key lessons China has learned after realizing
rapid economic development following decades of reform and opening
up to the outside world.
China is willing to share the lesson with African countries so
that they will get rid of the bottlenecks that have been holding
back economic growth for centuries.
In recent years, Chinese President Xi Jinping put forward the new
concept of "building nests to attract phoenix" and "teaching them
how to fish" in China’s cooperation with Africa. Chinese Premier Li
Keqiang also proposed that China and Africa work together to develop
the "Three Major Networks"—railway, road and regional aviation.
With sincerity and good faith, China is helping African countries
to boost infrastructural construction, promote Africa’s
inter-connection and integration process and help Africa realize
independent sustainable development.
It is against this historic backdrop that the Ethiopia-Djibouti
railway, which links Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa with the port of
Djibouti, comes into being as an early fruitful result in
China-Africa cooperation in building the Three Major Networks and
Thus, the railway, following its predecessor Tazara Railway, has
become another symbol for China-Africa friendship.
Built in 1970s, the Tazara Railway played a major role in the
socioeconomic development of Tanzania and Zambia.
As the Ethiopia-Djibouti railway commences operations, it will
avail landlocked Ethiopia a precious access to the sea, greatly
improving its logistics capacity.
On the other hand, the small, resource-poor Djibouti will have a
chance to realize its ambition to become a regional transport hub.
The railway’s operation will also help boost economic growth
along the railway, speed up urbanization, create jobs, improve
people’s living standards and promote socioeconomic sustainable
The Ethiopia-Djibouti is built with a complete set of Chinese
standards and equipment.
During the process, a great number of Ethiopian and Djibouti
technical and managerial personnel received systemic training in
Chinese railway technical knowhow, paving the way for the
development of their own railways by the two countries themselves.
It is foreseeable that more and more African countries will
improve their understanding of and finally accept the Chinese
railway standards, pushing forward their own railway development,
which in turn will speed up their industrialization process.
Besides, the Ethiopia-Djibouti railway is also expected to give
impetus to the economic development of East Africa and even that of
the whole Africa.
African countries will have a new engine for economic growth.
Give a man a fish and he eats a day.
Teach him how to fish and he eats for a lifetime.
The railway’s two contractors—the China Railway Group (CREC) and
the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), have
attached great importance to the training of local railway talents.
Li Weidong, a senior engineer of CREC, told Xinhua that an
international training center at CREC has organized nearly 100
African railway officials and technicians for training programs in
Trainings are also offered at all levels, covering the complete
spectrum of job titles in the railway industry.
Li disclosed that CREC is helping Ethiopia in planning for
Africa’s first railway institute, where Africa will be able to train
its own railway talents.
CCECC Ethiopia manager Li Wuliang said that his company is now
focusing on the training of Djibouti technicians in the field of
railway operation and management.
Since June 2015, 94 Djibouti students with academic credentials
above undergraduate have been sent to China for half-year training
programs in railway technology.
After the Ethiopia-Djibouti railway’s official operation, a
consortium of CREC and CCECC will manage its operations for six
years, during which the Chinese firms will teach the Ethiopian and
Djibouti staff knowledge in railway operation and management,
including the maintenance of the railway systems.
Six years later, the consortium will hand over the operation and
management to the two countries, which means they will be in charge
of running the railway independently.
Chinese railway construction workers have sacrificed a lot for
building the railway.
No one can tell how many of them had lost precious gatherings
with loved ones, lost health and even life.
On March 27, 2013, Zhang Peng, a 33-year-old CREC engineer who
only got married half a year ago, was the first fallen hero while
working for the railway’s construction, when a sudden flooding swept
Two years later, on July 2, 2015, Yang Hongwei, a 31-year-old
site manager, made the ultimate sacrifice in a flooding, leaving
behind a son less than four.
Colleagues of the fallen heroes told Xinhua that Chinese firms
have taken various measures to ensure the safety and security of
their staff working in Africa, with their living and working
conditions now far better than that of their predecessors during
Tazara railway’s construction decades ago.
However, they said despite all security measures, zero casualty
is something that is impossible to avoid.
Long gone are the Chinese fallen heroes who had fought for
Africa’s railway dream, but the railways they had built with sweat,
blood and life will signify the everlasting friendship between China
and Africa, which both the Chinese and African peoples will treasure