ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AFP)―Electric light railway tracks soar over Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, a rare example of mass transit infrastructure on a continent ruled by ramshackle, diesel-spewing buses.

But despite government promises, the roads below are still clogged with traffic 14 months after the light rail system’s opening, and for many residents the city’s network of overcrowded minibus taxis remain the only option.

“It’s better than nothing,” said retiree Zerayakob Assefa, dismissing the half a billion dollar investment with a shrug as he waited for a train to the city’s eastern suburbs. When one did arrive, 15 minutes later, it was so packed he could not board.

“I will never get on it again!” said one exasperated passenger as she squeezed from the jammed car.

Opened in September 2015, the light rail was supposed to ease traffic in the capital of Africa’s second most populous country. It is the first system of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa, and has caught the attention of other cities such as Lagos and Nairobi which are planning their own traffic-reducing tramways.

Ethiopian officials have touted the two-line, 34-kilometre system as a sign of the dividends the country’s rapid economic growth is paying to its people.

One of the continent’s best-performing economies, Ethiopia grew by nearly 10 percent in 2015, according to the World Bank.

Excitement fades

But growth is expected to slow due to a drought and a recent series of anti-government demonstrations that have targeted foreign businesses.

That has not stopped Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn’s administration from plowing money into Chinese-built infrastructure projects including dams, airport terminals and highways.

The light railway was built by the China Railway Engineering Corporation (CREC) at a cost of $475 million (447 million euros), 85 percent of which was covered by China’s Export-Import Bank.

Continue reading this story on Daily Mail Online
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