Chinese funded railways to connect East Africa

Published on : Wednesday, January 18, 2017

railwayRunning through some 750 kilometres (466 miles) long, the shiny new electric railway line is a project of $4 billion and connects landlocked Ethiopia to the Red Sea coast in Djibouti.



It was officially inaugurated last week after test runs kicked off in October 2016. This new railway connection is expected to reduce the travel time between the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa and the port in Djibouti from three days by road to 12 hours by rail. This railway project was partly funded by Chinese companies and would soon link up neighbouring Sudan and Kenya. In fact, the first part of a new $13 billion Kenyan railway connecting Mombasa to Nairobi is taking shape. The vast network will be connecting through South Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, as part of transnational efforts to connect countries within East Africa.



The new lines are part of the so-called LAPPSET rail project and the EAC Rail Sector Enhancement Project, also called the East African Railway Masterplan, and managed by the East Africa Community (EAC) — an intergovernmental organization run by Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda — together with consulting company CPCS. However, the China is lending funds to the African countries. African countries borrowed nearly $10 billion for railway projects from China in the period between 2004 and 2014.



China is always enthusiastic about this investment opportunity as this creates an export market for their booming steel and construction industries. The US and other Western countries have financed some railways and other infrastructure projects across the continent, but they haven’t been as keen to invest as China, partly due to a fear that the African countries won’t keep up the maintenance.



The new railway lines will be zigzagging from the coastal ports to mines and industrial districts inland connecting trans-African Cape to Cairo.

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