(Xinhua) -- For a first time visitor to Ethiopia, it
is hard not to miss the construction boom all across the
Indeed many expatriates compare it
with China’s own construction boom of the 1980s and 1990s which
eventually saw the Asian country become the world’s second
largest economy and the largest trading partner to many nations.
One such sector witnessing
construction boom are industrial parks being built mostly by
Chinese companies with a view to boost Ethiopia’s exports in
fields such as textile, leather and agro-industry.
Frehiwot Sisay, Office Manager at
China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) is a first hand
witness to the symbiotic relationship between Ethiopia and
Sisay, a graduate with civil
engineering from South China University of Technology, says her
decision to join CCCC partly was as a result of the modern
buildings and infrastructure she saw as a student back in China.
“CCCC’s good reputation in Ethiopia in
the construction of roads and bridges also factored in my
employment decision,” she says, adding that she believes
Ethiopians should learn from the hard work ethics and
development experience of China if the country is to develop
Sisay was speaking as she was
inspecting the construction progress of Arerti Industrial Park
130 km east of Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital. The project
is one of several flagship projects of CCCC in Ethiopia.
Arerti is one of 17 industrial parks
the Ethiopian government has envisaged constructing in its
ambitious Growth and Transformation Plan II (2015-2020) to boost
the country’s fledgling industrial base.
Sisay’s belief is echoed by Abebe
Aynete, senior researcher at the Ethiopian Foreign Relations
Strategic Studies (EFRSS), a local think thank. He says
Ethiopia’s policy of mutual benefit and promoting peace and
stability to have sustainable economic development is something
that echoes China’s lines.
“Both countries approach issues from
national interest instead of ideological inclinations and
favor multi-polar approach in their foreign policy,” he
No one left behind
While the likes of Sisay are high
skilled labor with tertiary education experience, Chinese firms’
willingness to invest in low technology and labor intensive
industries means the opportunities are spread out.
Woody Lau, Business Manager at CCCC
Arerti Industrial Park PLC says the completion of the first
phase of Arerti would see about 300 people being employed, and a
further expansion of the labor force is still to be expected in
the second phase.
One such beneficiary is Aboret Alemu,
a former soldier who was mentored by a Chinese carpenter with
vital skills that has eventually allowed him to become a site
manager at Arerti industrial park.
“I miss my Chinese mentor, he’s the
father of my profession, but now he’s living in China, a
good guy with a good work culture typical of Chinese people
I’ve met who are good hard workers.” He added.
Already the company has made itself a
name in Ethiopia by completing the construction of the country’s
first toll road, the Adddis-Adama toll road which was
inaugurated in March 2014.
It’s also involved in an electrified
rail project in the mountainous northern Ethiopia.
Ethiopians rubbish colonization claim
With the ever growing presence of
Chinese expatriates, restaurants, projects and even educational
institutions in Ethiopia, critics mainly westerners are accusing
it of “creeping colonization” or “neo-colonialism”.
With Ethiopia being the seat of the
African Union, the United Nations Economic Commission of Africa
and dozens of other diplomatic missions, the accusations carry
particular weight for Africa.
However, this is an accusation Aynete
doesn’t buy pointing out Ethiopia doesn’t fit the natural
resource country being exploited by powerful foreign countries.
“Ethiopia is an independent country
that has its own historical development and external
engagement which has refused even to liberalize to foreign
market its banking and telecom sector,” he explains.
“Furthermore as an agricultural
economy transitioning to an industrial one, it needs Chinese
investment in infrastructure which western countries are
until recently absent from,” Aynete says, adding that that
Beijing’s consensus of no attachment of political strings
has also attracted Ethiopia.
He further believes that China can
help in one area where Ethiopia has been deficient until present
“Ethiopia is dependent on rain-fed
agriculture vulnerable to climate change shocks. China with
its experience of feeding its vast population can help meet
that gap,” says Aynete.
Sisay also dismisses the colonization
claim pointing out cooperation with China brings advantages to
“China has the money and technological
expertise. Ethiopia has material and labor resource. The
more Chinese firms invest, the more Ethiopia develops hard
work and matching experience,” Sisay says.
There’s also another reason why Sisay
rubbishes the “colonization” claim.
“Despite I being the only foreigner in
the class back in China some years ago, I had supportive
friends who used to play games, eat together and invite each
other for holidays,” she says, adding that as a mark of
love, her Chinese friends even gave her a Chinese name,
“Both the Chinese and western
governments can pursue good relation with Ethiopian
government as long as the country is peaceful and stable
which is helpful for their national interest,” says Aynete.