Deal brings reliable transport to Addis Ababa and access to market of 95 million people to tiny but strategic port of Djibouti
With Chinese conductors at the helm, a fleet of shiny new trains on Wednesday began plying a new route from the Ethiopian capital to neighbouring Djibouti, in a major boost to both economies.
The 750km railway, built by two Chinese companies, will link Addis Ababa to Djibouti, a strategic port enclave on the Red Sea, in about 10 hours, a far cry from the current excruciating multi-day trip along a congested, potholed road.
“We’re so excited! It takes two or three days for a truck to come from Djibouti. The driver doesn’t answer his phone. We don’t know where he is and that can be a bit of a nightmare,” said Ethiopian importer Tingrit Worku. “The train could make a huge difference”.
About 1,500 trucks a day currently lumber along the road which carries 90 per cent of imports and exports from landlocked Ethiopia to the port – a key trade hub to Asia, Europe and the rest of Africa.
“This train is a game changer. Ethiopia is one of the fastest growing economies in Africa. The connection to the ports (of Djibouti) will give a bounce and our economy will grow faster,” said Mekonnen Getachew, project manager of the Ethiopian Railways Corporation.
Ethiopia was the world’s fastest growing economy last year at 10.2 per cent. However, the International Monetary Fund estimates that the worst drought in 30 years is likely to see this plummet to 4.5 per cent by the end of this year.
Despite being one of the largest countries in the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia is landlocked with no ports of its own. Both countries benefit from economic integration, with Ethiopia gaining access to the sea and tiny Djibouti gaining access to Ethiopia’s emerging market of 95 million people.
The new railway replaces the historic diesel line built by the French in 1917, which fell into abandon in later decades, with frequent derailments.
Full article: Chinese-built railway links landlocked Ethiopia, one of the world’s fastest growing economies, to the sea (South China Morning Post)