Chinese planners push for decision on the blueprint for a new Industrial and Logistics City to be built south of Ethiopia’s capital city Addis Ababa.

The proposal for the new city was publicly discussed last Saturday, during the “Ethiopia – Sichuan Economic and Trade Cooperation Forum”, in Chengdu, Sichuan province in China.

The forum was attended by Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and the vice Governor of Sichuan province as well as officials and business executives from both countries. The details of the issues discussed in the forum has not been made public on Ethiopian state media to date.

HornAffairs learned from members of the delegation that the Chinese urged their Ethiopian counterparts for quicker decision on the proposal so as to proceed to the next phase of the planning.

The proposed new city is dubbed Ethiopian International Industrial and Logistics City and slated to be built in around Akaki, south of Addis Ababa.

Photo - from Ethiopia Sichuan Forum May 20, 2017
Photo – from Ethiopia Sichuan Forum May 20, 2017

The China Railway Eryuan Engineering Group CO. LTD (a.k.a. CREEC) has been conducting the studies and presented the proposal in the forum last Saturday. CREEC’s engineers have been working on the proposal for about three years and have briefed senior officials in Addis Ababa about a year ago.

The proposal is modeled after the Chengdu Tianfu New Area, which was launched  by Sichuan provincial administration in 2011. The 1578 km2 zone is lauded for setting “an example for future urbanization and industrialization in China’s western and central areas” and has been elevated to special economic development zone in 2014, putting it on par with Shanghai’s Pudong New Area.

The Ethiopian International Industrial and Logistics City, dubbed the African version of Chengdu Tianfu New Area,  is proposed to lie south of Addis Ababa, around Akaki, in Oromia regional state. It will cover about 84.5 km2 or 8450 hectare which is a fifth of Addis Ababa’s current size. 

CREEC planners expect the new city to become a reality with in three years with the capacity to accommodate some 2,000 enterprises. The area will host “research and education area, core business district, light industrial area, residential area and other functions”, according to CREEC engineers explaining the proposal.

Ethiopian officials have been on board with the proposal which was been in the making for years. However, last Saturday, Prime Minister Hailemariam was unable to provide the Chinese a definite timetable due to recent political developments.

It is to be recalled that a French-sponsored draft Integrated Development Plan for Addis Ababa and the surrounding Oromia zones served as a rallying cry for the 2016 protests in Oromia. Protesters feared the draft plan would further intensify the eviction of farmers, which has been going on for a decade at due to Addis Ababa’s urban sprawl as well as investments.

The government rescinded the draft plan and also pledged to  legislate Oromia’s especial interest on Addis Ababa. The government has not been able to make progress on that legislation to date.

The proposal for the Ethiopian International Industrial and Logistics City would risk a similar backlash from the region. That might explain why the government had been tight-lipped on the matter.

Officials told HornAffairs off-the-record that the government is pondering on selecting a new location for the proposal.

Revisions to the National Railway Network Plan

The presentation by CREEC, during the forum,  also strengthened recent information about the revision of the National Railway Network plan.

The original National Railway Network plan of 2010, first published on HornAffairs, consisted eight main routes stretching 4,780 kilometers across the country. There has not been official modifications to the plan to date.

Ethiopia railway design phase 1 and 2
Map – Ethiopia railway design phase 1 and 2

However, through the years, various government organs released documents and maps indicating additional routes to the National Railway Network plan.

Last month, PM Hailemariam disclosed the Mekelle-Shire railway route have been dropped from the plan. In the audio recording released by HornAffairs, the Prime Minister says building railway in the area is a distant dream. Since then, the government tried to retract the statement. 

However, the map presented by CREEC during the forum indicates major modifications to the national railway network plan. (See the photo shoot of CREEC’s presentation above).

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Daniel Berhane

Daniel Berhane

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