Minimal corruption, efficient bureaucracy, and cheap production costs are driving China’s investment in Ethiopia.
Elias Gebreselassie | aljazeera
Passengers wait to board a train at the St George underground station in the capital Addis Ababa [Solan Kolli/EPA]
Ethiopia’s Addis Ababa Rail project opened last month to the delight of excited residents of the country’s capital.
The $475m urban rail project – funded by China – is one of the most obvious examples of Beijing’s huge role in Ethiopia’s infrastructure development. The world’s most populous nation has also built dams, roads, and factories in Ethiopia, and even gifted Addis Ababa the African Union headquarters, which cost $200m.
Gedion Gamora, a research fellow at Erasmus Mundus University in the Netherlands, said while the relationship between China and Ethiopia goes back to ancient times, formal relations between the countries began only in 1970.
Ironically, though, the Marxist-inspired Ethiopian revolution of 1974 put a damper on the countries’ ties for the next 17 years. Ethiopia’s closeness with the Soviet Union meant its relations with China, then a Russian rival, were minimal.
In 1995, former Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi made a trip to China where the two sides signed an economic cooperation agreement.
Relations were further strengthened when Ethiopia hosted the second Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in 2003.
Gamora also cited political similarities to explain the Ethiopia-China relationship: Both countries are ruled by dominant single parties, which he claimed run meritocratic systems that accelerate economic growth and development.