Ethiopia's cross country rail way connecting the heart of the country to the port of Djibouti has begun delivering official transport service for both passengers and cargo. The close to 700 kilometers railway was inaugurated in January and was so far undertaking trial trips. CGTN's Girum chala has more..
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The completion of the Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway, a new 752km track linking Ethiopia’s capital with the Port of Djibouti (pictured), was officially marked today (Tuesday) at a ceremony at Nagad Railway Station in Djibouti.
In the presence of Djibouti’s President, His Excellency Ismail Omar Guelleh, and Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, His Excellency Hailemariam Desalegn, and senior officials from across the region, the new railway – linking Djibouti to Ethiopia – was officially inaugurated.
The new railway can reach speeds of 160 km/h for passenger trains and 120 km/h for cargo trains. It will cut cargo journey times between the Port of Djibouti and Addis Ababa from three days by road to just 12 hours. Trial services for the new $4.2 billion railway began in October 2016, with regular services transporting goods and passengers expected to begin early this year.
The railway is a major milestone for trade in the region. Currently, more than 90% of Ethiopia’s trade passes through Djibouti, accounting for 70% of the overall activity at Djibouti’s ports. With Africa’s GDP predicted to double by 2035, and the population expected to reach 2.5 billion over the next 30 years, the continent is in need of major new infrastructure links.
In addition to building links with Djibouti’s port facilities, the railway will support the development of Djibouti’s International Free Trade Zone (DIFTZ), which will help spur the nation’s manufacturing industry and provide employment opportunities for its citizens. The railway project has been coupled with a US$15 billion expansion programme to improve Djibouti’s port facilities, and build new highways and airports in the country.
Aboubaker Omar Hadi, Chairman of the Djibouti Ports and Free Zones Authority (DPFZA), said: “This railway marks a new dawn for Africa’s integration into the global economy. From today, millions more Africans are now linked to Djibouti’s world-class port facilities. Connecting Africa, Asia and Europe, Djibouti is at the heart of the world’s trade routes, and we are proud to play a vital role in developing the region and wider continent.”
The railway was previously inaugurated from Ethiopia’s side on 5th October 2016. With journeys now also possible from Djibouti, the new railway represents the next step in plans for a 2000km long track that will also connect Djibouti and Ethiopia to South Sudan. The vision is that this could one day evolve into a Trans-African railway crossing the continent from the Red Sea to the Atlantic Ocean, a journey which by sea currently takes eight weeks.
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The railway, which links the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa and the port of Djibouti in Djibouti, will officially open service on Wednesday as Africa's first electric railway. It is constructed by China Railway Group and China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation, a subsidiary of CRCC.
Meng told Xinhua in an interview Tuesday that the project has set two successful models: introducing Chinese standards overseas to facilitate export of Chinese equipment and management; building railways to boost development of industrial parks, logistic centers and real estates along the route.
The Ethiopia-Djibouti railway is the first railway built using a complete set of Chinese standards outside China, which Meng said is key to its success.
Thanks to China's outstanding performance in building and managing railways, Chinese railway standards eventually helped Chinese firms win over the project in Ethiopia, which, like many other countries, once viewed Western standards as the orthodox.
"After rounds of negotiations, The Ethiopian government came to realize that the Chinese standards are no inferior to Western ones, and more importantly, they best suit the country," Meng said.
The option for Chinese standards facilitated the use of Chinese equipment, trains and materials in the construction. Working together, the Chinese firms ensured the railway's completion in just four years, despite the conclusion of Western experts who evaluated the project that for Ethiopia to have an electric railway was a mission impossible.
The railway's construction has also seen Chinese investments channeling into the industrial parks and other development projects along the line, which will help create jobs and boost industries for Ethiopia, Meng added.
In-Picture: Ethiopia-Djibouti railway inauguration
The 3.4 billion US dollars built railway is a historical project which will take the relationship between the three countries into a new era, said Prime Minister Hailemariam at the ingural ceremony held at Lebu Station.
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According to Bloomberg, on September 29 Djibouti and Ethiopia signed an agreement to proceed with the much-anticipated 550km-long fuel pipeline that will connect the two countries. The Horn of Africa Pipeline, which is due to be completed by the first quarter of 2018, will transport gasoline, diesel and jet fuel from storage facilities in the Port of Djibouti to Awash in central Ethiopia.
With an annual growing demand of around 15 percent, transporting fuel by tanker trucks is no longer sufficient to meet Ethiopia’s energy needs and its impressive rate of economic development. The pipeline is expected to increase capacity considerably to 240,000 barrels per day, as well as reduce the time and cost of transportation, factors which could potentially unlock further GDP growth in the landlocked country. Moreover, the Horn of African Pipeline will vastly improve Ethiopia’s energy security, while also reducing the carbon impact of current transportation methods.
Although it is one of the world’s poorest countries, in recent years Ethiopia has experienced a period of rapid economic development and is now one of the fastest growing countries in the world. According to the African Development Bank Group, its economy grew by 10.3 percent between 2013 and 2014, with strong growth expected for this fiscal year also. The rate of Ethiopia’s economic expansion has surpassed its Sub-Saharan neighbors as a result of growth in all sectors, including, most importantly, agriculture, which accounts for over 40 percent of its GDP.
The project is being undertaken in a joint venture by infrastructure development group Black Rhino and Mining, Oil and Gas Solutions (MOGS), a subsidiary of Royal Bafokeng Holdings.
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The Ethiopian port authority received nine new Ships (vessels) worth over $300 million from China at a ceremony organized in Djibouti Port.
“We believe that Ethiopia is Djibouti and Djibouti is Ethiopia, no difference at all, and that the new vessels will further help speed up the ongoing development endeavors in Ethiopia," President Ismail Omar Ghelle said at the ceremony.
“The vessels are not only Ethiopian assets but they are also Djibouti’s properties,” Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said at the ceremony.
“The vessels indicate the rapid development in Ethiopia,” he added.
Named Bahri-Daar after the capital cities of one of the regional states of Ethiopia, the vessels were built with loans from the Chinese government. Most of Ethiopia’s exports and imports are transported through the Port of Djibouti, which is located 900km east of Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.
“Djibouti benefits from Ethiopia’s rapid development and in turn Djibouti’s growth is an advantage to Ethiopia,” Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh said at the ceremony in Djibouti Port.
“The relation between Ethiopia and Djibouti is not limited to a government-to-government level but it has been intensified in people-to-people ties,” Ismail said.
President Ismail Omar Ghelle added that relations between the two neighbors are boosting in different spheres and that Djibouti gives a port service to Ethiopia but it does not consider that it is giving the service to another country but regards it as it is doing it for itself”.
Ethiopia had used Eritrean ports until 1998 when the two countries engaged in a war of their border disputes. Following the war, Ethiopian began to use Djibouti ports to export its products.