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Addis-Djibouti Railway Will Give Landlocked Ethiopia A Coastal Trade LinkThursday, June 11, 2015 > 09:04:34
Djibouti’s President Ismail Omar Guelleh and Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn will attend the ceremonial laying of the last track Thursday in a 752-kilometer (467-mile) railway, financed and built by China, linking the port capital of Djibouti with landlocked Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.
The first scheduled train is expected to use the desert line in October, reducing transport time between the capitals to less than 10 hours, rather than the two days it currently takes for heavy goods vehicles using a congested mountain road.
“Some 1,500 trucks use the road every day between Djibouti and Ethiopia. In five years, this figure will rise to 8,000,” said Abubaker Hadi, chairman of Djibouti’s Port Authority. “This is not possible, this is why we need the railway.”
The new line is a restoration of an old one, built in 1917 by the Franco-Ethiopian Railway Company, that fell into disrepair and only worked erratically.
With a capacity of 3,500 tonnes — seven times the capacity of the old line at its peak — the new electrified line will mainly be used for transporting goods to Africa’s second-most populous nation.
Ethiopia’s economy is growing fast, with almost 90 percent of its imports going through Djibouti.
Djibouti, the smallest country in the Horn of Africa, is embarking on large infrastructure projects, building six new ports and two airports in the hope of becoming the commercial hub of East Africa.
Another new line linking Djibouti and the Northern Ethiopian town of Mekele is also planned, and that’s not all.
Hadi says the railway is a step towards a transcontinental railway going all the way to the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa.
“We are already the gateway to Ethiopia,” Hadi said. “We intend to continue this railway line to South Sudan, the Central African Republic (CAR) and Cameroon to connect the Red Sea to the Atlantic Ocean.”