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Deal signed to upgrade roads, grid in Ethiopia

Updated: 2014-05-09 09:39
By Zhao Yinan and Li Lianxing in Addis Ababa ( China Daily Africa)

 Deal signed to upgrade roads, grid in Ethiopia

Premier Li Keqiang and his wife, Cheng Hong (second from left), attend an exhibition featuring China's most advanced railway and aviation technologies with Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (left), who chairs the African Union Commission, and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn (right) in Addis Ababa on May 5. Li Xueren / Xinhua

Visiting premier reaffirms Beijing's Africa commitment

Infrastructure in Ethiopia is expected to get a boost as China vowed to help upgrade the nation's power grid and road system. The pledge was part of a raft of deals signed by the two countries on May 4, hours after Premier Li Keqiang arrived at the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa.

Under the deals, China will assist the Ethiopian government in restoring roads in its capital and offer loans to upgrade the local power grid and an intercity road construction project. They also reached agreements in agriculture, industrialization and other sectors closely related to both countries' development.

China has already funded Ethiopia's first expressway project and is building a light-rail transit system in Addis Ababa. The $475 million project being executed by China Railway Engineering Corp is scheduled to carry passengers next year on a trial basis.

"I am looking forward to an indepth exchange of views on bilateral issues and issues of common concern with Ethiopian and AU leaders, and I am ready to promote further development of relations and cooperation between China and Ethiopia as well as the larger AU," Li said upon his arrival in Addis Ababa.

Assefa Michael, a 41-year-old businessman, said the infrastructure, including roads built by Chinese companies, would greatly change life and the industrial landscape in his country.

"Roads are the roots for the creation of real wealth for a nation," he told China Daily.

He says that several pregnant women die in rural Ethiopia because of poor road access and communication with the nearest clinics, and the projects would ensure healthier lives.

Ethiopian farmers also limit their production because they cannot access the huge markets of nearby towns, so these projects also offer business opportunities, he adds.

Frew Girma, a 34-year-old flower seller in Addis Ababa, is hoping his business will pick up when the light railway is built.

"Now it takes me more than three hours to reach the market in town, which makes my fresh flowers less attractive," he says. "I hope the railway can carry my flowers to the market quickly, then I can sell them at a good price."

Guo Xiangang, vice-president of the China Institute of International Studies, says the deals signed on May 4 will greatly enhance the living conditions of local communities.

He says the way China helps its "African brother" is gradually changing, as China increasingly focuses on "agriculture, infrastructure and environmental protection" which will help promote local people's livelihoods.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said the fact that Ethiopia is the first leg of the Chinese premier's visit to Africa shows the strong bilateral relations between the countries.

Dambisa Moyo, a Zambian economist, wrote in a recent article in The Huffington Post that the flow of Chinese trade is not only a welcome investment in the global growth and poverty reduction agenda, but can also "play an enormous role in staving off civil unrest and instability by creating local job opportunities".

Moyo, a former Goldman Sachs banker and an executive of the World Bank, says China's worldwide construction of infrastructure "has delivered the full complement of roads, ports, railways, airports and power stations". It shows an eagerness to invest in fields that even the private sector tends to avoid due to relatively low returns and project maturities that can run to more than 50 years.

Contact the writers through zhaoyinan@chinadaily.com.cn

(China Daily Africa Weekly 05/09/2014 page6)

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