Ethiopia expects to complete the construction of Addis Ababa’s metro next month, the first urban light rail scheme to be built in a sub-Saharan country outside of South Africa.
The Ethiopian capital (pictured) presently has 5 million people but no urban rail system.
Behailu Sintayehu, the project manager for the scheme, told the Reuters news agency that 80% of the track had been laid and that the system would be completed by the end of January 2015, three years after work began.Â
The commissioning period is expected to take another three months, before the first passengers board in May.Â
"We believe that it will have a great impact in alleviating the problem of transportation in the city," he said. The capital’s 5 million inhabitants presently rely on crowded buses and vans to get around.Â
The metro will consist of two lines running for a total distance of 32km. It will have underground and overground sections, 39 stations, and two operators: the Ethiopian Railways Corporation and Shenzhen Metro.
The $475m cost of the scheme is mostly being met by a loan from China’s Exim Bank, and the construction work has been undertaken by the China Railway Engineering Corporation (CREC).Â
Beijing has become a major partner in Ethiopia’s efforts to expand its infrastructure, with cumulative investments by Chinese firms reaching well over $1bn.
As well as the Metro, Chinese firms are constructing a rail link to neighbouring Djibouti.Â
Ethiopia also aims to treble the size of the road network by next year, from less than 50,000 km in 2010.
Ethiopia is one of Africa’s fastest growing economies, expanding by about 9% a year and attracting overseas investment with its with rock-bottom wages, cheap and stable electricity and transport projects such as the metro.