A significant milestone on the road to east African economic integration occurred last week as Chinese contractors laid the ceremonial last track of the new, 756km Ethiopia-Djibouti railway.
Djibouti’s president Ismail Omar Guelleh cut the ribbon as state-owned China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) laid the track in Djibouti.
Financed and built by China, the new railway links the port capital of Djibouti with landlocked Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa.
This railway project will revamp the already existing strong bilateral relationship between our two countries– Workneh Gebeyehu, Ethiopia’s transport minister
The first train is expected to run in October. The electrified railway will cut the journey time between the two capitals down to less than 10 hours from the two days it now takes for heavy goods vehicles navigating a congested mountain road.
The link gives Ethiopia, Africa’s second-most populous country, better access to the port of Djibouti, and Djibouti better access to markets offered by a fast-growing Ethiopia.Â
Ethiopia’s economy is expected to expand 8.6% this year and 8.5% in 2016, compared with 10.3% growth last year, the International Monetary Fund said in its World Economic Outlook released in April.
Last week the Ethiopian government proposed an $11bn budget for the fiscal year to fund development, up nearly 20% from the previous year. Ethiopia plans to become the first sub-Saharan country after South Africa to lay down an electrified rail network that will link 49 towns and cities.
"The construction and completion of this railway project will revamp the already existing strong bilateral relationship between our two countries into the highest stage that will guarantee the realization of our dreams of integration not only of our two economies but also the economies of East and Horn of African region," said Ethiopia’s transport minister, Workneh Gebeyehu, at the ceremony, Xinhua reported.
Two Chinese companies are building the rail link, China Railway Group (CREC) and CCECC.
Photograph: An Ethiopian cargo ship in the port of Djibouti. The new rail link will speed the flow of goods to and from land-locked Ethiopia (Mikhail Goldovski/Wikimedia Commons)