Chinese railway builders help locals along African railway

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Social responsibility has been highlighted in the construction of the Ethiopia-Djibouti railway, with two Chinese railway firms paving roads and digging wells along the route to improve locals’ lives.

The Ethiopia-Djibouti railway, also known as Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway, opened service on Wednesday to become the latest testament to the Sino-African friendship.

The 752.7-km line was constructed by China Railway Group (CREC) and China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) with an investment of 4 billion U.S. dollars.

CREC said in a statement that it has built more than 400 kilometers of roads for local villagers, as the line passes many villages that previously had no road access.

Moreover, CREC has dug 19 wells and established over 20 water distribution sites to provide free water supply to villagers.

Dong Jianfeng, chief engineer of CREC’s Ethiopia-Djibouti railway project, said as water resources are precious in drought-ridden Ethiopia, the team has preferred designs like culverts and bridges to retain surface runoff and minimize damages to sites of water sources.

Through such charity acts and by hiring large numbers of local workers, the company said they won the locals’ trust and avoid clashes over railway construction.

China Railway Construction Corp (CRCC), which owns CCECC, also said they had never encountered clashes with locals during the entire construction.

Li Wuliang, a manager of CCECC, said his team paid constant visits to villages along the line, where they made donations to schools, clinics and funded church building.

“Villagers treated us very friendly. Every time we arrived at a village, they treated us with the best food and local dances,” Li said.

According to Meng Fengchao, board chairman of CRCC, the company has hired over 20,000 local workers in Ethiopia and 5,000 in Djibouti, who made up the majority of the construction workers.

Hailed as the “Tazara railway in a new era,” the Ethiopia-Djibouti line was the second Chinese-built transnational railway in Africa following the Tazara railway, which links Tanzania’s Dar es Salaam with Zambia’s Kapiri Mposhi.

Unlike the Tazara railway, built in the 1970s in the form of China’s foreign aid, the Ethiopia-Djibouti line is a commercial act, but both state-owned CREC and CCECC have vowed to use the project to pass on the Sino-African friendship as entrenched by the Tazara railway.

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