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On 05 October, Ethiopia's prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn, and Djibouti's President Ismail Omar Guelleh led the commissioning of Ethiopia’s brand new, Chinese-built national standard gauge railway, in Addis Ababa.
The newly commissioned railway line runs parallel to the old Cape Gauge Ethio-Djibouti Railway and comprises a 107km double-track from Addis Ababa to the coffee-producing centre of Adama. The line then becomes a single track Adama to Dewele, some 549km away. The line then continues from Dewele on the Ethiopian border into Djibouti, ending at the Djibouti port station, providing the landlocked Ethiopia access to much-needed port facilities on the Gulf of Aden, opening up import and export opportunities to and from markets in the East. The new route will reduce travel time from Sebeta to the port of Djibouti by more than 50% and will form an important part of the East to West Africa Railway Network.
Over the past decade, Africa has surfaced as one of the strongest emerging markets on the globe. Ethiopia has experienced the benefits of this trend, with the IMF recording the country’s largest economic growth spurt – of 10.2% - in 2015, a trend that is expected to continue in the current fiscal year. The Ethiopian Government’s ambitious Growth and Transformation Plan, currently in its second iteration and ratified by the African Development Bank (AfDB), has been a major driver of the rapid industrial transformation of the country’s historically agriculture-based economy.
The landmark Addis Ababa – Djibouti railway line serves as an enormous milestone in Ethiopia’s development journey. The government identified lack of access to international markets as a major stumbling block in the country’s economic prospects some ten years ago. Linking the country’s capital city to port facilities in the neighbouring state of Djibouti will allow for the free movement of goods and people in a manner never before achieved, opening up the East African economy to the international arena.
The line currently being commissioned is only one phase of a much broader railway revolution being planned by the Ethiopian Government. The government’s five-year Growth and Transformation Plan has among its aims the overhaul of the entire national transport network in the country, comprising some 4,744km of standard gauge track, which will connect seamlessly to railway projects under construction in neighbouring Kenya and Tanzania.
This article first appeared on www.railwaysafrica.com
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