Ethiopia and Djibouti on Wednesday launched Africa’s first modern electrified railway connecting their capitals, with officials hailing the Chinese-built rail as the latest testament to the Sino-African friendship.
The 752.7-km Ethiopia-Djibouti railway, also known as Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway, was inaugurated in the Ethiopian capital in a grand ceremony.
The railway has a designed hourly speed of 120 kilometers. It was constructed by China Railway Group and China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation with a total investment of 4 billion U.S. dollars.
It is expected to reduce travel time from seven days on roads to about 10 hours and provide landlocked Ethiopia with a faster access to the port. There have been high expectations on the railway to boost industrialization along its route.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, said the project, in which the Chinese companies have showed their technical capability, would boost trade and economic ties between Ethiopia and Djibouti.
The Prime Minister has commended the Chinese government and its people for the cooperation and the support extended to the success of the project.
Djiboutian President Ismail Omar Guelleh, said the project goes beyond railway, and shows the ability of working together to overcome challenges and build good infrastructure on the African continent.
“Too often, we hear that Africa must bridge the gap in infrastructure, and too often, we are told why it can not be done,” the president said.
However, Guelleh said China, as a partner in the railway project and many others, “has stood by us and has been instrumental in the infrastructural transformation of Africa.”
The railway is the first built using complete sets of Chinese equipment and standards outside China. It is also the second trans-national railway built by Chinese in Africa, following the Tazara railway, which was built in the 1970s linking Tanzania’s Dar es Salaam with Zambia’s Kapiri Mposhi.
Xu Shaoshi, head of China’s top economic planner, the National Development and Reform Commission, also gave a speech during the ceremony in the capacity of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s envoy.
Xu hailed the railway as a crystal of friendship between peoples of the three countries and “a railway of Sino-African friendship in the 21st century.” The railway will also boost economic and social development along the route, and promote transfer of resources, commodities and people in the region, he said.
The envoy called for the three countries to closely cooperate in the railway’s management and in the training of local railway personnel; to promote establishment of industrial parks and develop labor-intensive, resource-intensive and export-oriented industries along the route; and to strengthen infrastructure building and financial cooperation in order to provide stronger momentum for future development of Ethiopia and Djibouti.
After the ceremony, hundreds of officials and members of the pubic were invited to take a short ride on the train.
Amanuel Fesseha, a city official of Dire Dawa, an Ethiopian city along the line, was among the first group of passengers.
Fesseha said people in his city welcomed the opening of the railway, which will cut travel time and bring more jobs. “Lives of Dire Dawa people have been highly associated with the railway since its construction began.