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ADDIS ABABA Ethiopia (Xinhua) -- A train runs on the Ethiopia-Djibouti railway near Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The 752-km railway links Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa and the Red Sea nation of Djibouti. It is one of the many Chinese-built and -funded infrastructure projects that have sprung up on the African continent in recent years. XINHUA PHOTO -SUN RUIBO

Electrified railway opens up new horizons for Ethiopia travellers       

ADDIS ABABA Ethiopia (Xinhua) -- Yusuf Abera still remembers his trips on Ethiopia’s old railway during its last years in active service. They were hardly pleasant journeys, as trains were slow, noisy and often disrupted by mechanical glitches.

“It often broke down in the middle of a trip, and we had to wait for hours until it was repaired,” said the 47 years old.

But despite the railway’s poor condition after 90 years in operation, its progressive closure in the new century still made frequent travelers like Abera upset, forcing him to travel via more expensive flights.

It was only in 2018 when Abera switched back to trains, this time thanks to the opening of the Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway (or Ethiopia-Djibouti Standard Gauge Rail), the first transnational electrified railway in Africa.

Waiting in the spacious, modernized hall of the Lebu Station in Addis Ababa, Abera compared the Chinese-built new railway with the almost defunct old rail line and other travel options like bus and airplane.

“It (the new railway) is safe and you don’t have to worry about accidents or any other inconveniences,” he said.

“The comfort is almost similar to airplane service ... and it is financially more convenient than flight.”

The 752-km railway links Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa and the Red Sea nation of Djibouti.

It is one of the many Chinese-built and -funded infrastructure projects that have sprung up on the African continent in recent years.

Ethiopia’s travelers are quick to relish the new railway’s comfort and reasonable fees. According to China Railway Group Limited (CREC), one of its builders and operators, the line transported 11,600 passengers in April, up from 4,400 in January when it commenced commercial service, suggesting its fast-growing popularity among the Ethiopians.

Akmel Kedir, a first-time passenger of the railway, was on a business trip to drive back imported vehicles from the port of Djibouti.

He said an affordable journey to Djibouti used to take three days on the bus. Now using the new railway, he could arrive in the coastal nation within the day of his departure.

“Spending three days on the road was very tiring and we had to spend more money on food and accommodation. In that sense, the train trip saves both time and money,” he said.

Landlocked Ethiopia relies on the seaports of Djibouti for 95 percent of its import and export commodities. The railway, by offering an access to the port quicker than the road, is expected to reduce Ethiopia’s import costs and expand its exports.

The railway is also at the center of Ethiopia’s industrialization drive, as the government hopes to attract investment to the industrial parks along the line and boost their production by offering more efficient transportation.

Yet apart from the apparent benefits for businessmen and industries, Mertneshi Desta’s case sheds light on the railway’s another significance to the fast-growing African nation, where many people now choose to work far away from home.

Desta, who lives in Addis Ababa with her child, now takes the train to visit her husband who is among the many Ethiopians working in Djibouti.

“I like to visit him whenever possible. I used to take airplane flights to Djibouti, but since it was expensive I could not afford to fly often,” she told Xinhua.

Desta is excited about the new train service, which charges 2,000 Ethiopian birr (about 72 U.S. dollars) for a round trip to Djibouti. In comparison, the cheapest round-trip flight to Djibouti costs about 3,400 birr (125 dollars).

“In the past, I flew to meet my husband once in three months ... Since the train service started, I’ve taken the train every month to visit him.”

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UPDATE:

Chinese development endeavor in Ethiopia wins acclaim

By Habtamu Liben ADDIS ABABA Ethiopia (Xinhua) -- Ethiopian experts and officials have voiced support for Chinese development endeavors in Ethiopia, saying they are important to Ethiopia’s economic ambitions.

Costantinos Bt. Costantinos, an economic adviser to the African Union (AU) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UN-ECA), said in an interview with Xinhua that Chinese-funded and built infrastructure projects in Ethiopia and the rest of Africa are “both timely and important.”

“Infrastructure is the mainstay of any economy. Unless you have roads, railways, airports, and energy production, the economy will suffer,” Costantinos said.

With regards to the Ethio-Djibouti railway, built by Chinese companies to connect Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa to the port of Djibouti, Costantinos affirmed that it would highly benefit land-locked Ethiopia.

“We have expected a lot from this railway and it will help Ethiopia’s growing economy that demands a growing import from abroad and export to the rest of the world,” he said, adding that “the investment will not only help the transport of goods but also transport of people among Ethiopians and with the people of Djibouti.”

The expert’s view has been shared by other Ethiopian government officials, who believed the Chinese infrastructure projects would facilitate Ethiopia’s export transportation demands.

Ahmed Shide, Ethiopian Minister of Government Communications Affairs Office (GCAO), told Xinhua that China has not only become Ethiopia’s top economic partner but a model for Ethiopia’s economic ambitions.

Shide said having seen China’s success in having an efficient infrastructure to facilitate exports from industrial parks, Ethiopia is building a “development belt” to copy the Chinese success story.

The “development belt” will see Ethiopia build industrial parks located along the path of existing or under-construction rail lines to speedily transport products made in industrial parks to ports in neighboring Djibouti.

According to the Ethiopian Investment Commission (EIC), Chinese companies, with close to 379 projects that were either operational or under implementation during the past five years, are on top of Ethiopia’s investment landscape both in terms of number and capital.

Ethiopian Foreign Affairs Minister, Workneh Gebeyehu, who called for strengthening the socioeconomic partnership between Ethiopia and China recently, also said that the ties between the two countries has shown consistent upward trajectory over the past years.

Gebeyehu said the relationship between Ethiopia and China “has grown to an excellent level, where the two countries enjoy a comprehensive cooperation and partnership.”

The newly appointed Chinese Ambassador to Ethiopia Tan Jian also said the partnership between Ethiopia and China could be seen as a role model for the South-South cooperation.

“The relationship between Ethiopia and China is based on comprehensive, strategic and cooperative partnership in all areas and at all levels,” Tan said in an interview with Xinhua. Tan also stressed cooperation in human resource development and science and technology.

“The bond between the two peoples is very important and it should be the foundation for the relationship between China and Ethiopia,” Tan said.

           

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