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Interview: BRI cooperation with China transforms Ethiopian lives for better

Updated: March 26, 2024 Source: Xinhua News Agency
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ADDIS ABABA, March 25 (Xinhua) -- Cooperation with China under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has significantly contributed to the betterment of the lives of ordinary Ethiopians, Ethiopian experts have said.

Ethiopia, as one of the growing list of countries cooperating with China under the BRI, has witnessed the initiative's significant contribution in terms of meaningfully transforming the lives of millions of Ethiopians, said Melaku Mulualem, a senior international relations and diplomacy researcher at Ethiopia's Institute of Foreign Affairs.

"The BRI has improved the lives of many Ethiopians. Many Ethiopians are working on various BRI projects, including industrial parks, railway stations, highway and expressway constructions, digital networking sectors, and many others. These projects are also hugely contributing to our economy," said Mulualem.

Mulualem said cooperation with China in implementing the BRI over the past decade has contributed to the realization of various infrastructure projects in Ethiopia while injecting a much-needed impetus to the development of the manufacturing sector, ultimately contributing to the country's economic growth and the creation of abundant job opportunities for Ethiopian youth.

"The BRI is a matter of interconnectedness through infrastructure development and people-to-people relations. Through this global initiative, many Ethiopians have got job opportunities," he said.

Citing a well-known Chinese saying that goes "If you want to get rich, you must first build roads," Mulualem said completed large-scale Chinese-built infrastructure projects are currently advancing Ethiopia's domestic and regional integration. He declared these infrastructure projects have "facilitated fast transport for ordinary Ethiopians, businesspeople, as well as importers and exporters through ports in Djibouti."

He singled out the 752.7-km Ethiopia-Djibouti railway, the construction of a dozen industrial parks in different regions of Ethiopia, as well as abundant scholarship opportunities benefiting thousands of Ethiopian students as part of the wider knowledge and skill transfer endeavor under the BRI. He said the success of these projects vividly illustrates the multifaceted benefits of jointly building high-quality BRI projects.

Recent data from the Ethiopian government also support his assertion. Since the Chinese-built Ethiopia-Djibouti railway's official commercial operation in January 2018, the railway had operated 1,824 passenger trains with nearly 530,900 passengers, and 6,133 cargo trains with about 7,328,500 tonnes of cargo as of June 2023.

The railway, often regarded as Africa's first modern cross-border electrified railway, also witnessed its total operating revenue maintaining an average annual growth rate of more than 35 percent.

The cooperation with China under the BRI is also propelling Africa's second-most populous country's aspiration of becoming a manufacturing hub and a lower-middle income economy shortly through the large-scale development of industrial parks across the country. Chinese-built industry parks are currently playing an important role in attracting international investors to the East African country.

Recalling his years of experience in China, Asnake Getie Asmare, an Ethiopian alumnus from China's Beijing Normal University and currently engaged in large-scale telecommunication infrastructure development initiatives in Ethiopia, argued that the BRI is serving as a platform for Ethiopia and other BRI member countries to benefit from China's vast developmental advancements.

Asmare said the BRI cooperation has been "greatly supporting Ethiopia's economic growth through infrastructure development, such as roads, railways, industrial parks, power and telecom sector, among others."

He said the BRI cooperation with China has facilitated Ethiopia's integration and connectivity with its neighboring countries while augmenting employment and education opportunities for the country's burgeoning youth population, much-needed transfer of technology and knowledge, and cultural exchanges.

Since its inception in 2013, the BRI, which covers an extensive range of development sectors, has won plaudits from experts and policymakers, who are calling for further strengthening the cooperation as the initiative embarks on its second-decade implementation.

"I expect that cooperation between China and Ethiopia under the BRI will advance in mutual development, people-to-people relationship, and cooperation in global issues of mutual interest," Asmare said.

In addition to further expanding their mutually beneficial cooperation approach in large-scale investments and infrastructure development endeavors, Asmare said the two friendly countries also need to expand their BRI cooperation across various areas that have already seen commendable outcomes, such as education, health, cultural exchange, and growing diplomatic relations.

Mulualem also underscored the need to further augment cooperation in boosting people-to-people relations as well as knowledge and skills transfer as the mainstay of cementing the wider Sino-Ethiopian cooperation under the BRI.

"In order to make the BRI cooperation even more fruitful, I believe there is a need to work more on the relationship of the Ethiopian and Chinese people. Training and skill transfer are very important to make Ethiopians even more capable to handle and run completed projects. These will make the implementation of BRI projects much more sustainable," he said.

Editor: Yang Yifan