Backgrounder: Chinese-built railways in Africa

Nairobi – The Chinese-built railway linking the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa and the port of Djibouti, which will be Africa’s first modern electrified railway, was inaugurated in Addis Ababa Wednesday.

The 752.7 km railway, with a designed speed of 120 km per hour, took six years to complete. It was constructed by the China Railway Group and the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation, with a total investment of 4 billion U.S. dollars. The railway is expected to help landlocked Ethiopia improve access to the sea and speed up a burgeoning industrialization process.

The railway reflects the ever strengthening cooperation between China and Africa, and is a continuation of friendly China-Africa cooperation in railway infrastructure. The following are some other key railway projects built by China in Africa over the years.

Tanzania-Zambia Railway (TAZARA)

Known as a monument to China-Africa friendship, TAZARA is the main rail line connecting East Africa with the central and southern parts of Africa. China financed and built TAZARA that covers a total length of 1,860.5 km running from Tanzania’s Dar es Salaam in the east to New Kapiri Mposhi in central Zambia in the west.

China deployed more than 50,000 workers who worked together with Tanzanian and Zambian workers to complete the construction of the project in five years and eight months before its official inauguration in 1976.

Lobito-Luau railway in Angola

In 2015, a 1,344-km railroad project spanning Angola was complete and put into operation.

The line, built by the China Railway Construction Corporation, boasts the fastest traveling speed in the country and will serve as a significant economic corridor there.

The railway, linking the coastal city of Lobito in the west and Luau city which borders the Democratic Republic of Congo, is the second longest railway built by a Chinese company for Africa after TAZARA. The railway will be linked with the Angola-Zambia railway and the Tanzania-Zambia railway in the future.

Abuja-Kaduna railway in Nigeria

The railway, built by China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation, covers a distance of 186.5 km and links the capital city Abuja and the northwestern state of Kaduna. It has nine stations and a designed speed of 150 km per hour.

Built in 2011, the railway became operational in July 2016. It is part of the railway modernization initiative by Nigeria which aims to replace the existing narrow gauge system with the wider standard gauge system, while allowing high-speed train operations on the railway network.

Standard Gauge Railway in Kenya

China in May 2014 signed a deal to build a rail link worth 3.8 billion dollars between Kenya’s Mombasa and Nairobi. Around 480 km long, the project is expected to complete in 2017.

The project, which marks the first phase of a line that is expected to cover a distance of about 2,935 km and eventually connect Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan, will facilitate transportation and boost trade in the eastern African region.

It features passenger trains with a speed of 120 km per hour and freight trains designed to move at 80 km per hour.

Addis Ababa Light Rail Transit (AA-LRT) in Ethiopia

The electrified AA-LRT was the first light railway on the African continent with two lines of a total length of 34 km. The project, built by China Railway Group, became operational in September 2015.

The rail service, estimated to transport about 60,000 passengers per day, helps ease people’s travels in the Ethiopian capital. – NAMPA / XINHUA