The Ethio-Djibouti railway an engine for economic progress, regional integration

The Ethio-Djibouti railway has emerged as a vital tool for economic progress and regional integration in the Horn of Africa. Ethiopia, with its large population and booming economy, relies heavily on the port of Djibouti for its import and export trade. The rapid growth of the Ethiopian economy necessitates the exploration of additional ports and the Ethio-Djibouti railway has played a crucial role in facilitating trade and connectivity.

The railway has been instrumental in transporting Ethiopia’s import and export goods to and from the port of Djibouti. It has also experienced a steady increase in the number of Ethiopia’s export goods containers over the years. The availability of refrigerated facilities for transporting export items such as beef, meat, vegetables, and coffee has further contributed to the growth of cargo transportation on the Ethio-Djibouti railway. Additionally, the railway has had a significant impact on increasing economic growth and fostering people-to-people relations between Ethiopia and Djibouti.

The launching of electric powered rail way transport connected Addis Ababa to Djibouti constructed by Chinese Company six years ago further facilitated the import export business.

The Ethio-Djibouti railway, which is part of the Belt and Road Initiative flagship infrastructure project for African continent, has been providing economic and social benefits to the people of Ethiopia and Djibouti, Chinese companies recently stated.

The Belt and Road Initiative is a global infrastructure development strategy adopted by the Chinese government in 2013 to connect Asia with Africa and Europe via land and maritime networks with the aim of improving regional integration, increasing trade thereby stimulating economic growth.

Ethio-Djibouti railway is one of the several development projects of the initiative which was put into operation on January 2018.

With a total length of 756 kilometers, the railway that starts from Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia in the west, and ends in the port of Djibouti in the east, is the first electrified railway project in Africa.

The project is being operated and maintained by the joint venture of China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) under China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC) and China Railway Group Limited (CREC).

Deputy General Manager of CCECC-CREC JV project office Yang Anwei, said that the Addis Ababa Djibouti railway has been successfully operated nearly six years, which is also the end of the operation service contract of the Chinese management.

According to him, over the past six years of operation, the transportation revenue has increased by more than 35% every year. The revenue in the first half of 2023 alone has increased by 76% compared with same period of last year.

This shows that the Addis Ababa – Djibouti railway is playing significant role in serving the socio-economic development of Ethiopia and Djibouti. The railway has been providing crucial benefits to Ethiopia as it is transporting Ethiopia’s import and export goods from and to Djibouti port in addition to passengers, he added.

He pointed out that the number of Ethiopia’s export goods containers has been increasing every year over the past six years.

According to the Deputy General Manager, refrigerated facilities essential to transport export items such as beef, meat, vegetables and coffee will be instrumental for the future growth of cargo transportation in Ethio-Djibouti railway.

Addis Ababa – Djibouti Railway is bench mark project of China-Africa cooperation under the “Belt and Road Initiative,” he said.

The dry port of Mojo and Dire Dawa, built alongside Addis Ababa Djibouti Railway, have been put into use one after another and the expansion project of the Mojo logistic center, which is under construction, has its own impact on railway transport. The railway is also vital to stimulating the activities and further development of the Dire Dawa Free Trade Zone, as indicated.

All of these activities are expected to increase the railway contribution to the economic development of Ethiopia, the deputy general manager said, expressing his hope that the future development perspective of this railway line is very good.

China Railway No.2 Engineering Group (CREGC), a subsidiary of China Railway Group Limited (CREC), international corporation General Manager Hu Tianran on his part said the management contract of the Chinese companies will be completed this year.

“By working together and transferring the infrastructure operation and maintenance responsibility to Ethiopians,” he noted; “In the near future, our Ethiopian friends can manage this whole system as what we have done in the past five years”.

He mentioned that even if the maintenance and operation contracts are closed, the technical support from the company will continue.

The Belt and Road Initiative 10th year anniversary summit will be held in China on second half of October, 2023, to discuss about the achievements of the initiative and will be agreed up on future cooperation areas.

As mentioned above, Ethiopia has huge potential in advancing its economic growth. So far, the agricultural and manufacturing sectors are playing a pivotal role. To create linkage between the two sectors, the government allocated a huge budget and constructed industrial parks and most of them are located adjacent to the Ethio-Djibouti rail way.

The industries utilize raw materials obtained from both local and oversea markets. The supply of farm products to industries created market opportunity to the citizenry. On the other hand, some of the raw materials are imported from abroad come through the Ethio-Djibuti rail transport. The export products of the industries are also transported through the rail way and this implies how business and trade are integrated.

The volume of exported vegetable, fruit and flower is increasing and the products are produced not far from the rail way transport line which reduces the transaction cost of the products.

The railway mutually benefits the two sisterly countries in promoting regional economic and social integration, facilitating trade and industrial development, and bringing employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for citizens of both countries.

While interviewed by the local media, the Chief Executive officer of the Ethiopia- Djibouti rail way company, Abdi Zenebe said that the Ethiopia-Djibouti Railway, Africa’s longest electrified railway, has been hailed as a game-changer for trade and development in the region.

The railway, which connects Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa with the port of Djibouti, reduces travel time from three days to 12 hours and boosts the capacity and efficiency of cargo transport.

He further said that the railway, which was inaugurated in 2018, is a joint project between Ethiopia and Djibouti, with funding and technical support from China. The railway covers a distance of 752 kilometers (467 miles) and has 18 stations along the route. It can carry up to 3,500 tons of cargo per train and transport up to six million passengers per year.

The railway is expected to have significant economic and social benefits for both countries, as well as for the wider region. Ethiopia, which is landlocked and has a population of over 120 million people, relies on Djibouti for about 95% of its imports and exports. The railway will lower the cost of transportation and increase the volume and diversity of trade between the two countries. It will also create new opportunities for industrialization, urbanization, tourism, and cultural exchange.

Djibouti, which is strategically located at the entrance of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, is a major hub for international trade and maritime security in Africa. The railway will enhance Djibouti’s role as a regional gateway and logistics center, attracting more investment and business from neighboring countries and beyond. It will also improve Djibouti’s infrastructure, energy supply, and environmental protection.

The Ethiopia-Djibouti Railway is part of the broader vision of the African Union to connect the continent through integrated transport networks. It is also aligned with China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which aims to promote global connectivity and cooperation through infrastructure development. The railway is seen as a model of successful cooperation between African countries and China, as well as a symbol of friendship and mutual benefit.

Addis Ababa – Djibouti rail way



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