by Birhanu Fikade,
Wang Shoubao ADDIS ABABA Ethiopia (Xinhua) --
In rural and urban Ethiopia, Chinese contractors
are busy building railways that are counted upon to speed up the
industrialization of the east African country.
presence has brought the locals life-transforming opportunities.
To achieve the goals set by the government of Ethiopia that
targets 2,750km railroads by the end of 2020, many Chinese firms
aided by Ethiopian laborers are working around the clock to meet
Ethiopia aims to link 49 cities across the country through
the construction of six main railway lines. A 752km modern
electric railway, linking landlocked Ethiopia with the port of
Djibouti, came into service in October last year.
In all the efforts, Chinese firms have been playing vital
Their work has changed not only the landscape of Ethiopia,
but the lives of individual Ethiopians.
Tewolde Tikue, aged 40 and an engineer by training, employs
more than 200 manual workers after being sub-contracted to offer
civil works at the road construction sites by the China’s
Railway Engineering Corporation (CREC) three years ago.
He has 15 permanent employees.
Tewolde says he has benefited a lot since he started working
with Chinese firms in Ethiopia.
Previously, he was with another Chinese company, CGC Overseas
Construction Group (CGCOC), where he fostered his
He now has his own private company called OMIC Engineering
PLC which provides electromechanical and civil works services.
At Lebbu Railway Station at the peripheries of Addis Ababa,
Tewolde and his team are busy finishing up the construction of
drainage channels and ditch covers that stretch more than one
kilometer parallel to the interconnection road to the railway
Driving his SUV four-wheeler, Tewolde monitors his workers
and is so far happy with the output as he is very strict on
The current works have to be done before the end of this
"There are workers who have been continuously working for us
for three years.
"You can see changes in their lives.
"Their living standards have improved to some extent.
"The quality of jobs they deliver has been improving and they
have acquired the needed skills," Tewolde says.
"Personally I have benefited from the project as well.
"I have upgraded my contractor license," he adds.
Apart from the monetary benefit that has come with getting
contracts from the Chinese firms, Tewolde says it is the
technical and managerial skills he has acquired since he started
working with the Chinese that he values the most.
"On one hand, Chinese companies have created employment
giving our people hope, while on the other, the skills we have
acquired so far will go a long way in building our economy.
"We have learned things we could never even think were
possible," he adds.
Tewolde’s workers too are living testimonies to the positive
changes the Chinese presence has brought about to their lives.
Ismael Keddir, one of the senior manual workers in Tewolde’s
team, says companies like CREC in Ethiopia have created jobs for
the fresh graduates joining the workforce each year as well as a
good number of manual workers like Ismael himself.
Ismael now being a full-fledged mason and has plans for the
He says he is saving a portion of his wage with an eye to
setting up his own business.
"I have been working with CREC for the past two years.
"Before joining this company I have not really been in good
"But now I have been able to save some money for the future.
"I am paid some three thousand birr (about 130 U.S. dollars)
"This is a fair income for my field of work," he says.
Tsegaye Hailegnaw, another of Tewolde’s employees, says his
life took a different turn immediately after he landed the job.
Being his third year with the company, Tsegaye says he has
been able to save some money with which he intends to start a
business and build his own home in the future.
"I have a plan to establish my own business in the future.
"I try to get five hundred birr (about 21 U.S. dollars) per
day out of the line work I am assigned," says Tsegaye, impatient
to get the shovel he is holding to work.
Tewolde plans to establish a steel manufacturing plant by
next year, a milestone he has achieved, thanks to his
partnership with Chinese firms.
The prospect of being able to create more jobs fills the
engineer with tremendous joy and pride.
According to the Ethiopian Investment Commission (EIC), there
are 43 Chinese firms operating in Ethiopia.
Investing close to two billion U.S dollars, the companies
have been recognized by the government as the leading job
providers among 120 foreign investors, employing tens of
thousands of Ethiopians.