Home / Opinion / Featured Contributors

China and Djibouti: Laying the tracks for global prosperity

By Aboubaker Omar Hadi | | Updated: 2016-11-24 17:16

China and Djibouti: Laying the tracks for global prosperity

A train runs on the Ethiopia-Djibouti Railway during an operational test near Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Oct 3. The Africa's first modern electrified railway was built by Chinese companies in three years. [Photo/Xinhua]

Modern transport links are vital to national and global prosperity. Without quick and reliable routes to move goods – and the facilities required to handle them – trade will be stifled and living standards held back. Nowhere is this need greater than in Africa. Poor transport links within and across borders explains why intra-regional trade is at 12% in Africa compared to 60% in Europe. Sub-standard or non-existent infrastructure is also an obstacle for Africa's full integration into the global economy. With the region's GDP predicted to double by 2035, and the population expected to reach 2.5 billion over the next 30 years, never has the need been greater for effective trade links.

This is why the opening of the Addis Ababa-Djibouti modern electric railway is such an important step to lifting these barriers to prosperity. The 752 km track links the capital of Africa's fastest growing economy to the Port of Djibouti, more than halving journey times and transforming connections across the region and to global trade routes. This exciting project has been coupled with a $15 billion expansion to improve our port facilities and build new highways and airports in our country. We recognize our location at the heart of the world's trade routes connecting Asia, Africa and Europe has given us a wider responsibility to our continent.

But if we are to truly harness Africa's rich potential, there are a number of other elements that need to accompany the railway's launch.

First, we need to see more investment in transport links across the continent and more collaboration. Our partnership with Ethiopia is already helping accelerate what is a major driver of wider prosperity. Its double digit economic growth over the past decade is a huge success story for the region and the continent as a whole. With Ethiopia's population set to reach 130 million by 2025, its positive impact on Africa's progress is only going to increase.

But we also need to increase such collaboration overseas. Djibouti's partnership with China, which has been instrumental in the delivery of the new railway link, has proven essential in strengthening trade routes that integrate Africa into the Belt and Road initiative.

Secondly, we must not forget that our people are our strongest asset. An effective infrastructure network across our continent opens the doors for more Africans to come into the formal economy. But if we are to take full advantage of the opportunities this will provide, they need to be properly trained to work in transportation, logistics and other sectors that are stimulated through better infrastructure. The development of infrastructure is fundamental to the continent's economic transformation, helping us retain Africa's human capital.

Finally, we are not going to reap the full benefits without concerted efforts to improve regional peace and stability. The dream of one day seeing a Trans-African railway from the Red Sea to the Atlantic Ocean will not be possible if civil war persists in countries like Sudan. We will not see improved living standards and increased opportunities flowing from the regional and global economy if conflicts persist.

But the new railway has empowered us to start changing our destiny. Millions more Africans now have access to Djibouti's world-class port facilities, which is transforming access to global trade routes. With 80% of trade still carried by sea, this is a vital step in the right direction. The rail line marks a new dawn for Africa's integration into the global economy but it must be matched urgently with progress in wider cooperation, skills and stability across our continent. If we meet this challenge, then we will see Africa's economy continue to grow strongly, delivering a prosperous future for its citizens and driving global growth.

The author is the chairman of the Djibouti Ports and Free Zones Authority (DPFZA).

Most Viewed in 24 Hours
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349