Ethiopia – Chinese Train to Development

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Chinese government is giving new life to Africa’s old colonial railway routes.

Ethiopia, Kenya and Nigeria have accepted massive financing support offered by the Export-Import Bank of China, which has covered almost the entire cost of construction, as well as the service of China Railway Engineering Corporation, which has been in charge of the railways implementation, providing expertise, engineers and technicians. Just in East Africa at present over 5,000 railway kilometers are under construction to connect as well Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan and Sudan. Djibouti, where Chinese set up their first continental military base, is ready to become the Hong Kong of Africa thanks to a huge tax-free manufacturing area to be completed soon.

In Addis Ababa a new 4billion US$ train to Djiibouti has come into operation by early 2018, while since late 2015 Shenzhen Metro Group is managing a new 500milion US$ light train in the Ethiopian capital city. Locomotives, railway carriages and stations reproduce exactly those realized at home before China started to run on high-speed trains. Even railway staff members are mostly from China: according with specific agreements, Chinese staff will fulfill the training process of their Ethiopian colleagues, which are expected to take full charge of the railway management in some years.

Unlike French and English colonizers, who in XIX and XX centuries used to set up railway stations at the heart of the old cities, Chinese are building their new stations in faraway suburbs, almost deserted areas to be turned into commercial terminals. However the new railways represent a great opportunity for African passengers as well: the new Chinese train takes 12 hours to reach Djibouti as compared to almost two days by bus, with no difference in ticket price.

Chinese new commercial strategy, much more sophisticated and ambitious than the previous one which looked at Africa just as a huge raw materials mine, aims at becoming the undisputed leader on Africa’s emerging markets. In 2009 China overtook the US becoming the first commercial partner of the African continent. Just in Ethiopia, in the last 10 years Chinese government has provided more than 20billion US$ low interest rate loans to finance infrastructures (railways, highways, telecommunications, industrial parks). Thanks to the new railways, Chinese goods will get an extensive and wide access to African internal markets, while Chinese companies which have relocated manufacturing offshore, profiting of cheaper manpower, will get advantage of a fast and safe way to reach their wealthy final markets.

The new Addis Ababa-Gibuti train, financed by Export-Import Bank of China and implemented by China Railway Engineering CorporationThe new Addis Ababa light train running in front of the Nani Building, a skyscraper sponsored by the Saudi billionaire Mohammed Al Amoudi. The light train has started to operate in the African diplomatic capital since late 2015 and it's managed by Shenzen Metro GroupChinese guard checks tickets on the Addis-Gibuti new trainPeople waiting the new Addis Ababa light train at Menelik II underground stationThe new Dire Dawa railway station, which reproduce exactly those realized in ChinaThe new Addis Ababa light train running alongside Atekil Tera stationRestaurant car on the Addis-Gibuti new trainChinese railway staff member points passengers towards the Addis-Gibuti new trainAddis Ababa new railway station tickets officeEthiopian railway staff member helps passengers get their seats on the Addis-Gibuti new trainTraveling on the Addis-Gibuti new trainThe railway at Atekilit Tera, which is Addis main fruits and vegetables market, few months before the new light train got into operationsThe new Addis Ababa light train at Stadium stationThe railway few months before the new Addis Ababa light train got into operationPassengers on the new Addis Abeba light trainThe new Addis-Gibuti train running alongside the old French railway, which was in operation from 1902 to 2008Tickets checking at the new Addis Ababa railway station-c89.jpgRailway staff members at the Addis Ababa stationSnacks and drinks vendor in front of the new Addis Ababa railway stationA journey on the Addis Ababa light trainPeople waiting the new Addis Ababa light train at Menelik II square underground stationChinese driver on the new Addis Ababa light train. According with specific agreements, Chinese staff will fulfill the training process of their Ethiopian colleagues, which are expected to take full charge of the railway management in some yearsAddis light train doors opening at Kidist Mariam stationPassengers waiting for their first journey on the new Addis-Gibuti trainEthiopian railway staff working on the new Addis-Gibuti trainPassengers getting on the new Addis-Gibuti trainPassengers on the new Addis-Gibuti trainThe new Addis Ababa light train running alongside Lagare stationThe two lines of the Addis Ababa light train merge at Meskel square, main city squareSuburb area around the new Addis Ababa railway stationThe new Addis Ababa railway station which has been built in the city suburbLagare, the old Addis Ababa railway station, in operation from 1929 up to 2008Lagare, the old Addis Ababa railway station, in operation from 1929 up to 2008The old Dire Dawa railway station, in operation from 1902 up to 2010The new Addis Ababa light train running alongside Autobus Tera, which is the city main bus stationA journey on the new Addis-Gibuti trainMeskel square, main Addis Ababa square, during the construction of the new light train railway

Il governo cinese sta rivitalizzando le antiche rotte ferroviarie coloniali in Africa.

Soprattutto Etiopia, Kenya e Nigeria hanno accettato i cospicui finanziamenti della Export-Import Bank of China, che ha coperto quasi per intero i costi delle opere, e i servizi della China Railway Engineering Corporation, che si è invece occupata della realizzazione fornendo esperienza, ingegneri e tecnici. Soltanto in Africa Orientale sono in cantiere oltre 5mila chilometri di strada ferrata per connettere anche Uganda, Rwanda, Sud Sudan e Sudan. Gibuti, dove la Cina ha appena terminato la costruzione della sua prima base militare continentale (oltre che di 3 porti commerciali e 2 aeroporti), nei piani del governo cinese è destinata a diventare la Hong Kong africana, anche grazie a un’immensa area manifatturiera tax-free ormai quasi ultimata.

Ad Addis Abeba dall’inizio del 2018 è entrato in funzione un nuovo treno per Gibuti costato oltre 4miliardi di US$, mentre da fine 2015 nella capitale etiope è attiva una metropolitana di superficie gestita da Shenzhen Metro Group, anch’essa realizzata da capitali (quasi 500milioni di US$) e imprese cinesi. Locomotive, vagoni e stazioni sono copiati nel minimo dettaglio da quelli realizzati in patria prima che la Cina cominciasse a viaggiare ad alta velocità. Anche il personale impiegato sui treni e nelle stazioni è in buona parte cinese: secondo gli accordi presi dai rispettivi governi, deve occuparsi di affiancare e formare quello etiope, che tra qualche anno lo sostituirà nella gestione delle ferrovie nazionali.

A differenza dei colonizzatori francesi e inglesi, che a cavallo tra il XIX e XX secolo collocarono le proprie stazioni ferroviari nel cuore delle vecchie città, i cinesi le stanno costruendo in estrema periferia, in aree semideserte pensate per essere soprattutto terminal commerciali. Nonostante siano pensate soprattutto per il trasporto merci, le nuove ferrovie rappresentano però una rivoluzione epocale anche per i passeggeri, grazie alla sicurezza e alla rapidità dei collegamenti: il treno Addis-Gibuti, a esempio, impiega meno di 12 ore per percorrere i 750 chilometri che separano le rispettive capitali, un viaggio che se intrapreso su gomma dura circa 2 giorni. Il costo dei biglietti inoltre è equivalente a quello degli autobus e quindi molto popolare (in Kenya e Nigeria però l’elevata richiesta ha già dato vita a un bagarinaggio spietato).

La nuova politica commerciale cinese, più sofisticata e ambiziosa di quella che guardava all’Africa soltanto come a un’immensa miniera di materie prime, mira oggi a conquistare il ruolo di leader incontrastato sui mercati emergenti africani. Già dal 2009 la Cina ha superato gli Stati Uniti diventando il primo partner commerciale del continente africano. Soltanto in Etiopia negli ultimi 10 anni il governo cinese ha messo a disposizione di quello locale oltre 20miliardi di dollari in prestiti a basso tasso d’interesse, destinati soprattutto alla costruzione di infrastrutture (treni, autostrade, parchi industriali, telecomunicazioni). Grazie alle nuove ferrovie, le merci cinesi avranno un accesso capillare ai mercati interni, mentre in senso inverso gli imprenditori cinesi che hanno delocalizzato la produzione in Africa, in cerca di manodopera a costo sempre più basso, potranno contare su un canale di sbocco rapido e sicuro verso i ricchi mercati finali.

 

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