Ethiopia Launches First Light Rail System In Sub-Saharan Africa

Written by Kevin Mwanza

Ethiopia has launched the first fully electrified train service in sub-Saharan Africa. The Light Rail is the first in a raft of Chinese-funded infrastructure projects that the East African nation hope will come online in the next few month.

At the launch on Sunday, thousand of Ethiopians thronged the new railways station to get a glimpse of the gleaming green and white urban commuter train that is expected to cut commute time by up to two-third and cost much less in fares.

At the same venue was the Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, who was the official guest at the launch and hundreds of officials from Chinese companies involved in the project, including officials from China’s Exim Bank that inject $470 million in the construction.

China will also train the train drivers and maintenance staff and put together the power system.

“This railways transport been readied for service. Above all technology has been  transferred to Ethiopian professional who have drawn extensive experience and knowledge in the process of working with Chinese professionals,” CCTV Africa quoted Prime Minister Desalegn saying.

The train, which will run for 16 hours each day once they are fully operational in three months time, is expected to carry 15,000 people per hour in one direction, with a top speed of 44 miles per hour.

This is expected to relieve Addis Ababa from its growing transport strain as the capital’s population, which now stand at 5 million, increases in tandem with the country high economic growth rate.

Ethiopia, with a population of 94 million, is projected by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to grow at 8 percent in 2015-16, the second-fastest pace on the continent. The Horn of Africa nation has drawn a lot of debate for the shape and speed of its ‘developmental state’.

The country’s economy has grown at an average rates of 10 percent per year for most of the last decade, partly thanks to grand infrastructure projects like this one.