Feature: China-sponsored training program empowers young drivers in Ethiopia
ADDIS ABABA, July 17 (Xinhua) -- Dejen Gezu, one of the first licensed drivers for electrified trains in Ethiopia, is tasked with dual responsibilities of safely chauffeuring the Chinese-built Ethiopia-Djibouti standard gauge railway and training aspiring young people.
Gezu described himself as an example of China's successful knowledge and experience transfer endeavor toward helping Ethiopia's quest for development and modernization.
"I was just a train driver trainee, and I was trained by the Chinese. Now, I am giving the training for other trainees. We can now teach ourselves by our own experts," Gezu said. He commended China's support for Ethiopia from constructing the state-of-the-art railway infrastructure to empowering locals with railway operation knowledge and skills.
Gezu is one of the top three graduates of a Chinese government-sponsored program that provided courses for about 34 Ethiopians on driving electrified trains.
Now teaching fellow young Ethiopians what he learnt in China, Gezu spoke highly of the Chinese engagement in Ethiopia, with enthusiasm and admiration for China's capacity building initiative in Ethiopia.
"Knowledge sharing is very crucial for the local people. They (Chinese professionals) share their experience and knowledge with our local people; and we can get the best experience and knowledge from them as it will help us in the future," he said.
The 752-km Ethiopia-Djibouti standard gauge railway, also known as the Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway, is the first electrified trans-boundary railway in Africa, a flagship project under the framework of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative.
Abdi Zenebe, chief executive officer of the Ethio-Djibouti Standard Gauge Railway Share Company (EDR), said the capacity building program has been unfolding since the operation of the railway.
"The significance of the skills transfer is quite paramount, especially for us, from the receiving end of the line. The Chinese railway industry is well developed and is one of the leading industries in the world. To have such a partnership with this caliber, capacity and willingness are very critical," Zenebe told Xinhua recently.
So far, the Ethiopia-Djibouti railway has created 55,000 jobs in Ethiopia and Djibouti and provided training opportunities for more than 3,000 professionals, laying a solid foundation for the development of the railway industry in the two countries, according to the Ethiopian government.
Local employees account for over 90 percent of the total staff who are offering passenger and freight services.
"Capacity building and knowledge transfer efforts are progressing very smoothly. For the first three years, we were undertaking the training. During the past two years, we were already operating the locomotives together with the Chinese colleagues," said Yidnekachew Alemu, a team leader of railway captains.
The railway has cut the transportation time for goods from more than three days to less than 20 hours and reduced the cost by at least one third, substantially facilitating the import and export of Ethiopia, a landlocked country in the Horn of Africa.
The railway has seen the passing of 1,824 passenger trains carrying nearly 530,900 people and 6,133 cargo trains with about 7,328,500 tonnes of goods since it was put into operation in January 2018, according to official figures.