By Chrispinus Omar NAIROBI, (Xinhua) --
The launch of the Chinese-built Ethiopia-Djibouti railway has shown
China’s special position in the modernization of Africa’s
infrastructure, Kenyan scholars said Saturday.
“The launching of the Ethiopia-Djibouti standard gauge railway line
is expected to spur similar efforts of Africa to link the continent
more effectively with an efficient railway transport network, which
could be what Africa needs for close integration and expansion of
intra-Africa trade,” Gerishon Ikiara, an international economics
lecturer at the University of Nairobi, told Xinhua.
The fully electrified Ethiopia-Djibouti railway links Ethiopia’s
capital Addis Ababa to the Red Sea port of Djibouti. It was built by
Chinese companies with the help of funding from a Chinese bank.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and Djibouti’s
President Omar Guelleh presided over the launch of the 752.7km
Ethiopia-Djibouti railway on Oct. 5. The Ethiopian premier said the
electrified rail helped cut travel time between the two countries
from seven days to just 10 hours.
Ikiara, who was Kenya’s vice minister of transport, said the
completion of the railway line was a major milestone in the
modernization and expansion of transport infrastructure in Africa.
“It is expected that the Chinese influence in Africa’s development
is going to rise rapidly,” he said.
“The emerging dominance of China in Africa’s development is leading
to increased competition for Africa’s infrastructure financing and
construction works,” he said.
The scholar said the railway line would help boost the development
of the two countries.
“The collaboration between Ethiopia and Djibouti in the successful
implementation of the project is historic and is expected to have
huge impact in these two neighbouring and currently highly dynamic
economies in Eastern Africa,” Ikiara said.
“The launching of the line significantly increases the areas in
Africa in which modern efficient standard gauge railway
infrastructure is available,” Ikiara said.
Macharia Munene, a Kenyan international relations scholar, said the
inauguration of the Ethiopia-Djibouti railway was a major step
towards the realization of the “infrastructural opening up of the
Munene said the new rail was an effort to accelerate the movement of
goods and lower the cost of goods in landlocked countries across
Chinese firms had built modern railway lines in Angola and Nigeria,
and is constructing the Mombasa-Nairobi railway in Kenya, which is
expected to extend to other East African nations.
The first phase of the China-funded railway in Kenya will link the
port city of Mombasa to the capital Nairobi.
Munene said he expected the rail to link Kenya with neigbouring
Ethiopia in the future, enhancing regional integration and offering
southern Ehthiopia access to goods from the sea.
On his side, Ikiara said the launch of the Ethiopia-Djibouti
railway, was expected to push other African countries to implement
modern railway projects.
“The project is expected to restart Africa’s long desire to create a
comprehensive network of rail, road, maritime and air transport
systems.” Ikiara said.
China’s engagement has dovetailed with a broad African
infrastructure development plan, with the ultimate target being a
modern railway network connecting each and every African capital.
Munene said the Chinese efforts towards the modernization of the
railway network in Africa were something that no other major power
did in the past.
The construction of a series of railways and road networks is part
of broader cooperation between China and Africa in Africa’s
industrialisation and development.
“China-Africa cooperation is based on perception of mutual interest
that is realism and this is likely to continue,” Munene told Xinhua.