ADDIS ABABA – Much to the delight of excited Ethopians, The African country lifted the curtains on its brand new Addis Ababa Rail project in September 2014, a project that residents of the capital city are eagerly awaiting.

What is more interesting is the fact that the $475 million urban rail project is, in fact, funded by China, and is only one among the numerous other infrastructure development projects that Beijing is currently funding in the East African country. Other development initiatives that China is currently undertaking in Ethiopia includes dams, roads and factories. As a matter of fact, the $200 million African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa was a gift from Beijing.

Relations between Beijing and Addis Ababa strengthened after 1995, when former Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi visited China, where the two sides formalised economic cooperation by signing an agreement. Subsequently, in 2993, the relationship between the two nations were further strengthened in 2003 after the second Forum on China-Africa Cooperation was held in Ethiopia.

China’s involvement in Africa has raised many questions and continues to be a widely speculated subject. Many believe that China is developing ties with Africa and is investing in African countries because of its interest in the continent’s abundance in natural resources. While this can be held true for other countries, Beijing’s interest in Ethiopia continues to be a mystery as the country isn’t abundantly rich in natural resource reserves.

However, a Chinese official speaking on the condition of anonymity said that Ethiopia’s relative safety, low levels of corruption, efficient bureaucracy and cheap production costs are attracting Chinese investment.

“China, less than two generations ago, was a very poor country with people aspiring to be developed and rich. And it has still infrastructure that needs to be carried out, from ICT to railways. So we understand the need of infrastructure for Ethiopia’s development,” he said.

China’s involvement in Ethiopia can also be partially attributed to Chinese companies wanting to tap the East African country as a potential market. Additionally, rising production costs in China means a lot of countries are looking towards Ethiopia as a potential production hub.

While Beijing’s involvement in the country continues to increase with every passing day, the residents of Ethiopia are definitely not complaining thanks to the increasing in infrastructural development.

– The Global Panorama