Chinese train driver Liu Ji (L) and his Ethiopian colleague Geto shake hands before the inauguration ceremony of the Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Oct. 5, 2016. Ethiopia and Djibouti on Wednesday launched Africa's first modern electrified railway connecting their capitals, with officials hailing the Chinese-built rail as the latest testament to the Sino-African friendship. The 752.7-km Ethiopia-Djibouti railway, also known as Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway, was inaugurated in the Ethiopian capital in a grand ceremony. (Xinhua/Li Baishun)
By Xinhua writer Wang Xiangjiang
ADDIS ABABA, Oct. 5 (Xinhua) -- The inauguration of a Chinese-built Ethiopia-Djibouti railway in Africa is a vivid proof that China is walking the talk, sharing one of the key lessons it has gained following decades of reform and opening up to the outside world.
That is, as the Chinese saying goes, if you want to be rich, build roads first.
For centuries, backward infrastructure has been hampering economic growth on the African continent. Africans' dream to connect their capitals with high-speed railways once appeared unreachable.
But not today. Africa's first modern electrified railway linking Ethiopia and Djibouti's capitals was inaugurated on Wednesday, reducing the journey time from seven days by road to 10 hours.
With its inception, landlocked Ethiopia has more efficient access to the sea. Industrial parks are being established at key cities along the railway, creating jobs, speeding up urbanization, and igniting people's desire to create and prosper. Djibouti has now come closer to realizing its ambition to become a regional shipping and logistics hub.
Other railway projects using Chinese standard gauge are underway in Kenya, Chad, Nigeria, Angola and others.
These projects spark hopes for economic prosperity, more jobs and better lives.
Looking back to 1970s, despite its own difficult economic conditions, China were resolved to support the construction of the Tazara railway at the request of Tanzania and Zambia. The Tazara railway has since become a symbol of China-Africa friendship.
The following decades witnessed the emergence of China as the world's second largest economy, with its ever steadily improving infrastructure providing a powerful driving force.
Over the years, China has been working hard to share its development experience with its African friends. Chinese leaders have promised to help Africa build the Three Major Networks -- railways, roads and regional aviation.
China sincerely hopes that Africa will get rid of the bottleneck of inadequate infrastructure and embark on a path of independent, sustainable development.
As many African countries have been following different gauge standards of Western countries, they are not in a position to form an integrated railway network. Gradually, more and more African countries have found that China's railway standards better fit Africa's reality.
The Ethiopia-Djibouti railway's inauguration has set an even better example for other African countries.
"Too often, we hear that Africa must bridge the gap in infrastructure. Too often, we are told why it can't be done," said Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh at the inauguration ceremony.
It is still remembered that China extended a helping hand when Western powers turned down Tanzania and Zambia's request for funds for the Tazara railway.
Long before the official planning for the Ethiopia-Djibouti railway, Western railway experts invited by the Ethiopian government had drawn a conclusion that constructing an electrified railway would be mission impossible in a country with such poor infrastructure.
"However, we can say without doubt that our partner, in this endeavor and in many others, the People's Republic of China, has stood by us and has been instrumental in the infrastructural transformation of Africa," said President Guelleh.
Forty years ago, Chinese constructors built the Tazara railway with sweat, blood and life. Today, a new generation of Chinese railway builders are blazing a path for an even better future for both China and Africa.