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China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative gaining momentum in Africa

China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is gaining momentum in Africa through its infrastructure footprints such as the Addis Ababa-Djibouti Standard Gauge Railway, an Ethiopian official has said.

Tilahun Sarka, the general manager of Ethiopia-Djibouti Standard Gauge Railway Share Company (EDR), said in a recent interview with Xinhua that the Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway is “a living example of China’s Belt and Road Initiative in Africa, set to linking Djibouti in the east to Senegalese capital, Dakar in the west of Africa through railway.”

“This line goes to West Africa, usually, they name it Djibouti-Dakar route. Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway is exactly the starting point of Djibouti-Dakar line,” Sarka said in the interview.

The 752-km Chinese-built transnational railway, which was launched in October 2016, is a flagship project of China-Africa cooperation under the BRI, bringing Ethiopia, Djibouti and China together for a common goal, Sarka said, underscoring the need for African governments along the intended east-west railway line to work together with China toward the realization of Africa’s integrated high-speed railway network.

“Respective governments are supposed to work closely with the Chinese government and fill the gap and if that is realized, it (will be) very simple to take a train from here and go to Dakar. This is really a big vision,” he said.

According to the EDR chief, the BRI coincides with Africa’s 2063 vision of establishing an integrated railway network, connecting the continent also from Egypt in the north to South Africa in the South.

“The good thing with the Chinese investment is that they are coming with financial resources; they are coming with the technology transfer to the local people. They also believe in a win-win kind of partnership,” he said.

The Ethiopia-Djibouti railway company has reported increasing revenue during its four years of operation while driving economic growth and industrialization along the route.

Figures from the EDR show that Africa’s first fully electrified transboundary railway earned 86.1 million U.S. dollars in 2021, up 37.4 percent from the previous year, with some 449 passenger and 1,469 freight trains running along the route, and fertilizers, wheat and commodities such as cooking oil, small cars and chilled fruits and vegetables transported.

The electrified railway has cut the transportation time for freight goods from more than three days to less than 20 hours and reduced the cost by at least one-third.

“Our report showed that we moved about 2 million metric tons of cargo in 2021. We transported 1 million metric tons of cargo during the first year of freight operation. So there is a significant increase in the volume of cargo of about 25 percent per year,” Sarka said.

The Addis Ababa-Djibouti electrified railway, also known as the Ethiopia-Djibouti railway, was contracted by China Rail Engineering Corporation (CREC) and China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC). It is the first transboundary railway on the African continent.

The CREC-CCECC joint venture is a management contractor of the Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway, which presently provides both passenger and freight services between Ethiopia and Djibouti. The management contractor is in charge of operating the line, maintaining the whole infrastructure along the route and transferring knowledge to the local staff.

According to Sarka, the railway has enjoyed relatively safe operations and reported no accidents during four years of operation. He commended the Chinese management contractor for the safe operation of the railway while emphasizing the ongoing knowledge transfer endeavor.

“We have 3,000 newly recruited railway staff, among whom 1,000 are already certified by the Chinese side, we are also waiting for the rest to be certified in the coming two years,” Sarka said.
Source: Xinhua

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