by Habtamu Liben
ADDIS ABABA, May 10 (Xinhua) -- As Ethiopia works to become the manufacturing hub of Africa, the engagement of Chinese companies, from road building to industrial park construction, is widely seen as a bridge to realizing that goal.
Here are some latest developments on the major Ethiopia-China cooperation projects in the Horn of African nation.
Chinese investments are found in various infrastructure areas of Ethiopia such as road, rail and air infrastructures, alleviating transportation problems in the East African country.
The Chinese-built Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway (or Ethiopia-Djibouti Railway), which connects landlocked Ethiopia and the Red Sea nation Djibouti, is Ethiopia's long-term solution to increasing export commodities and reducing import costs.
As Africa's first transnational electrified railway, the 752-km railway commenced commercial freight and passenger services in January. It has so far transported over 30,000 passengers and more than 11,000 containers of various types.
The railway is also at the center of Ethiopia's industrial ambitions as the country is building an economic belt along the rail line.
In the capital Addis Ababa, many residents now rely on the Addis Ababa Light Rail, a 475-million-U.S.-dollar project built with Chinese technology and currently operated by a Chinese team. The Export-Import Bank of China provided 85 percent of the funding.
Since its opening in September 2015, the light rail has transported 96.8 million people and won praise for greatly alleviating the city's traffic jam.
INDUSTRIAL PARK CONSTRUCTION
Drawing from China's economic growth experience, Ethiopia will have about 15 industrial parks by June, most of which were built with Chinese money and expertise.
In the latest announcement by the Ethiopian government, the construction of the Chinese-contracted Bahir Dar Industrial Park will be completed within three months.
The Ethiopian Industrial Parks Development Corporation (IPDC) previously disclosed that the 75-hectare industrial park will focus on labor-intensive industries that would export value-added textile, apparel and food products.
The park's contractor China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) has previously constructed the country's flagship Hawassa Industrial Park in the southern city of Hawassa, which was inaugurated in June 2017.
The Ethiopian government said the industrial park had attracted world-class textile and apparel companies including PVH, eventually contributing to the country's ambition of becoming Africa's light manufacturing hub with a lower-middle income status by 2025.
Kombolcha Industrial Park, also built by CCECC in Ethiopia's northern Amhara regional state, is expected to start productions this year. The industrial park is to support Ethiopia's efforts to have a manufacturing belt along the Ethiopia-Djibouti railway.
Built by another Chinese construction company China Communications Construction Company (CCCC), the Mekelle Industrial Park in northern Ethiopia is also designed to attract textile and apparel producing companies.
China Tiesiju Civil Engineering Group (CTCEGCL) is presently building the Kilinto pharmaceutical industrial park (KIP) at the outskirt of the capital. The World Bank is financing the construction through a loan scheme.
MANUFACTURING MADE-IN-ETHIOPIA PRODUCTS
Chinese companies are also directly engaged in Ethiopia's manufacturing sector, helping produce Made-In-Ethiopia goods to boost the country's exports.
Huajian, a Chinese shoemaker producing for brands like GUESS, Calvin Klein and Nina, entered Ethiopia's manufacturing industry in 2010, when Ethiopia's first 40-hectare Eastern Industrial Zone went operational with Chinese investment.
The shoemaker in August 2016 opened another factory in Ethiopia in its own industrial park on the outskirts of the capital. Its two factories jointly provide direct jobs to more than 7,000 Ethiopians.
Every year in the two factories, about 5 million pairs of shoes labeled "Made In Ethiopia" are shipped to the United States and European markets, fetching some 31 million U.S. dollars for the East African nation in foreign exchange earnings in 2017.
According to the Ethiopian Investment Commission (EIC), Chinese companies have created more than 28,300 jobs in various sectors in Ethiopia during the five-year period between January 2012 and January 2017.
Mekonen Hailu, EIC Communications Director, told Xinhua that the jobs were created by 279 Chinese companies in Ethiopia during that period. Out of these jobs, over 19,000 were created in Ethiopia's manufacturing sector as the sector is leading its African peers by attracting companies from China, Hailu said.
Construction, service and agricultural sectors are other sectors hosting a great number of Chinese companies.