Seventy percent of the $3.4 billion project, the 470-mile railroad from Addis Ababa to Djibouti’s port, is financed by China’s Export-Import Bank.

By Paul Schemm (The Washington Post) |

The sleek, white train glides through the hilly Ethiopian countryside, the first to travel this route in nearly a decade.

The contrast is stark as the new, Chinese-made electric train passes horse-drawn carriages, oxen hauling plows and crowds of curious village children. But soon it crosses over a gleaming six-lane expressway and snakes past a row of newly erected wind turbines — all Chinese-built and, like the train, part of Ethiopia’s ongoing effort to remake itself.

The standard-gauge rail line, which will be officially inaugurated this week, stretches 470 miles from the capital, Addis Ababa, to the port of Djibouti, which handles 90 percent of the landlocked country’s trade and is its main window to the outside world. Seventy percent of the $3.4 billion project is financed by China’s Export-Import Bank, and it is one of the biggest of the mega-projects that Ethiopia says will transform its largely agricultural economy — once known for little more than famine and coffee — into East Africa’s manufacturing hub.

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“Our economy is one of the fastest-growing economies in Africa and the world, so at the end of the day, when the train is connected to the port and transporting that much freight, . . . it will add value,” said Mekonnen Getachew, the railway’s project manager, speaking after a recent trial run for journalists .

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