BRI-Fueling Ethiopia’s Propulsion to Prosperity

China’s groundbreaking project, The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), designed to spur global economic growth, has become a beacon of optimism for developing countries seeking accelerated economic development. Among these countries, Ethiopia, one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies, has emerged as a prominent participant embracing the BRI and its transformative potential.

Unveiled by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, the BRI embodies China’s global vision of shared prosperity through interconnected development. This initiative aims to establish a vast network of trade and infrastructure connecting Asia, Europe, and Africa, marking a new era of global cooperation and economic innovation.

Ethiopia, strategically positioned in the Horn of Africa and demonstrating remarkable economic development, has been a key participant in the BRI. The convergence of the BRI’s objectives with Ethiopia’s development goals has made the country an ideal destination for Chinese investments, particularly in infrastructure development. These investments have catalyzed a transformation in Ethiopia’s economic landscape, paving the way for a prosperous future.

The BRI’s most discernible impact in Ethiopia is undoubtedly in the realm of infrastructure development. Chinese-funded and constructed projects have significantly bolstered Ethiopia’s infrastructural capacity, stimulating economic growth and facilitating both regional and global integration.

One of the flagship projects under the BRI is the Ethio-Djibouti Railway, Africa’s longest electric transnational railway, running across the vast eastern region and connecting the landlocked Ethiopia to the Djibouti port. The railway system, which transports both freight and passengers was constructed and financed by the Chinese, at a cost of approximately $4.5 billion. It has significantly enhanced Ethiopia’s transport efficiency and logistics capability, thereby boosting its international trade.

Another monumental project is the Addis Ababa Light Railway system, the first electrified railway line in Africa, which cost approximately $475 million. Completed in 2017, the project was funded and built by the Chinese. The city rail network has significantly improved public transportation services in Ethiopia’s capital.

China’s involvement extends to the aviation sector as well. For instance, Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, Ethiopia’s largest airport, was expanded with the assistance of China. The project has significantly increased the airport’s capacity, improving Ethiopia’s connectivity with the rest of the world, and making the title –“the gateway to Africa” all the more befitting Ethiopia.

The BRI has also created opportunities for Ethiopian exporters. Improved logistics infrastructure has facilitated access to Chinese markets for Ethiopian products, particularly agricultural goods. This connection has the potential to significantly boost Ethiopia’s export growth.

The impact of the BRI on Ethiopia extends beyond physical infrastructure. By attracting foreign direct investments and joint ventures, Ethiopia has been able to drive its industrialization process, create jobs, enhance skills, and stimulate economic diversification.

The influx of Chinese manufacturing firms, especially in the industrial parks, has spurred Ethiopia’s transition from an agrarian economy to a manufacturing-led one. Thousands of Ethiopians are now employed in these enterprises, acquiring new skills and improving their livelihoods.

China’s involvement in Ethiopia’s industrial sector has been transformative. The vast industrial park, the Eastern Industrial Zone, located 32 kilometers south of the capital, between Dukem and Bishoftu towns, and along the Addis Ababa–Djibouti railway, was developed by a Chinese corporation. It houses numerous Chinese manufacturing companies and has created thousands of jobs for locals, fostering skills as well as technology transfer.

China’s contribution also extends to the energy sector as well. The Gibe III Dam, Ethiopia’s largest hydroelectric plant was constructed with Chinese funding and expertise. This project has dramatically increased Ethiopia’s electricity generation capacity, supporting its industrialization efforts.

Similarly, Ethiopia’s Tekeze hydroelectric plant which comprises the erection of Afria’s tallest dam, became operational in 2009 with the support of the Chinese expertise, long before the BRI initiative was introduced.

In a groundbreaking venture, China assisted Ethiopia in launching its two satellites, the ETRSS-1, and ET Smart RSS2 into space in 2019 and 2020 respectively. These satellites are providing invaluable support to the agricultural, mining, conservation, natural disaster prevention and mitigation, land governance, and other important activities in the nation.

Besides providing launch facilities for both satellites, Chinese experts were integral members of the detailed and technical aspects during the design of both satellites.

As the economic ties between the two nations get deeper and wider, the people–to–people relations are continuously getting more intensified. China is the nation where the national carrier, Ethiopian Airlines has the largest number of overseas destinations. The Chinese provide free academic and short-term training scholarships each year to several thousands of Ethiopians in various fields of study.

“Education cooperation is one of the most important cooperation fields. It is not only an important fundamental cooperation, but also an important part of strategic cooperation between our two countries, playing an important role in bilateral cooperation.” says the Chinese ambassador to Ethiopia. Ethiopia is one of the nations that benefit from the implementation of the Global Development Initiative and Global Civilization Initiative proposed by the Chinese President, Xi Jinping.

The success of the BRI in Ethiopia has not only been an economic triumph but has also served to deepen the diplomatic ties between Ethiopia and China. Both nations have expressed their commitment to the initiative and the mutual benefits it offers.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, during the 2018 Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, emphasized China’s commitment to the BRI’s principles of “consultation, contribution, and shared benefits.” he noted, “China follows the principle of giving more and taking less, giving before taking, and giving without asking for return.” His words reflect China’s intention to leverage the BRI as a platform for promoting shared prosperity.

On the Ethiopian side, recently addressing the Third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation which was held a few days ago in China, Premier Abiy Ahmed said: “The Belt and Road Initiative provides us with a unique opportunity to further strengthen our role as a regional hub for trade, investment and cooperation. Through BRI, many jobs have been created and livelihoods improved. New roads and railways are linking previously unconnected places. People-to-people relations are being enhanced both within and across countries.”

Looking ahead, BRI holds immense potential for Ethiopia’s economic transformation. During the past decade of its implementation, BRI has proven to be an additional fuel for Ethiopia’s propulsion to prosperity. As the initiative progresses through the next two decades, Ethiopia stands to gain even more.

Future projects under the BRI, including further infrastructure development, digital economy cooperation, and green energy development[hydro, solar, wind, and geo-termal] hold immense potential for Ethiopia’s economic transformation and present promising prospects for continued rapid and sustainable economic growth.

Moreover, the BRI offers Ethiopia a chance to enhance its role on the global stage. As a key participant in the initiative, Ethiopia can influence the BRI’s implementation ensuring that it continues to align with its national development goals and priorities.

10 years on, BRI has been transformed from a mere plan on paper to a reality no one can ignore that created wealth and positively impacted the lives of millions around the world. In particular, no one can deny that the BRI, embodying a vision of shared prosperity and interconnected development, has had a transformative impact on Ethiopia.

The BRI has proven to be more than just an infrastructure development project. The projects under the BRI have not only reshaped Ethiopia’s physical landscape but also brought about tangible economic benefits. It has emerged as a symbol of the robust partnership between Ethiopia and China, a testament to their shared vision for a prosperous and interconnected future. As Ethiopia continues on its growth trajectory, the Belt and Road Initiative will undoubtedly remain a key driver of its economic transformation.



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