The sugar plant at Wonji-Shoa is chugging along, but the government’s 10 other projects – estimated to cost more than $5.5bn – face problems of their own.

By Jacey Fortin |

The tiny, street-side coffee shop run by Senait Ashagre encompasses little more than a short table covered with little ceramic cups, a ring of plastic stools and a clay coffee pot resting on hot coals.

This is the only factory in Ethiopia so far that does power generation

Senait, 23, tries to stay open seven days a week. But a few times a month, she runs out of an essential ingredient – sugar – and is forced to close.

“I get 2kg of sugar each month from the local government for about 15 birr ($0.74) each, but that’s not enough. So I usually have to buy five more kilograms from the shops, and those cost 32 birr,” she says.

“It’s stupid we have to wait in a queue to buy sugar,” says one customer, a young rickshaw driver. “We produce it right over there!”

He is pointing toward the Wonji-Shoa sugar factory, which began producing at nearly full capacity this year.

It is run by the Sugar Corporation, a government-owned entity that is spear-heading one of the most ambitious development projects in Ethiopia’s history.

On top of three working factories, another undergoing testing and another project still under construction, the government is building no less than 10 new sugar facilities across the country.

In the main, these projects are being financed by agreements whereby the corporation hires Chinese contractors in exchange for loans from China’s state-owned banks.

Five years ago, when these plans were announced, the cost was roughly projected at $5.5bn.

Today the Sugar Corporation is working on a new cost evaluation that will be significantly higher.

Continue reading this story on The Africa Report
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