The bilateral relation between Ethiopia and China…

The bilateral relation between Ethiopia and China has never been at the height of its glory as it appears now, gossip observed. Ever since 200 Chinese laborers arrived in the highlands of Ethiopia in January 1868, building the road that led to the well known expeditions by Robert Napier’s (Gen.), against Emperor Tewodros, the Chinese reserve a significant place in building the nation’s physical infrastructure, gossip recalls.

From historical engagement of building roads, power plants and telecom infrastructure to the new undertakings of light railway to Addis Abeba and rail lines connecting the country to the sea, no other country than China has committed to making over five billion dollars available in a form of loans, gossip disclosed. In fact, the Chinese authorities have told members of Ethiopia’s top leadership their desire to see Ethiopia as a growth model for the entire continent, gossip learnt.

Gossip sees little surprise then in the high level visits and exchanges between the two countries. During one recent high profile visit by the Chinese Prime Minister, Li Keqiang, Ethiopian authorities have placed their requests to find financing on two major projects: the transmission line for the GERD, estimated to cost a little over one billion dollars, and the construction of railway line extending up north of Weldya, to link Mekelle and potash rich north-eastern part of the country.

Projected to cost 1.6 billion dollars, the idea of building a railway line between Mekelle and farther has first surfaced when the late Meles Zenawi was in office, gossip disclosed. Considering how expensive the project would turn out to be and in the absence of economic rationale that sways, Meles was reportedly reluctant to approve the project at the beginning, only to change his mind later on, claims gossip. Nonetheless, a disclosure of an agreement between the heads of the Ethiopian Railway Corporation (ERC) and the Chinese contractor, CCCC, provoked criticism within and outside of the administration, gossip disclosed.

During his visit to Ethiopia in May 2014, Prime Minister Keqiang had instructed his aides to look into the project for possible finance, gossip disclosed. Now Arkebe Oqubay (PhD), the Prime Minister’s point man for infrastructure and industrial affairs, is seen very keen and determined to see the project gets through, despite the grudges over its economic viabilities, gossip reveals.

Disappointingly to the senior EPRDFites though, the financing pledge by the Chinese Premier has not come handy to date, according to gossip. What should be far alarming, and contrary to the EPRDFites’ consolation that the nation’s debt sustainability ratio is in the category of low risk countries, the new leadership in China that is busy in restructuring foreign debts their country is owed has not demonstrated its customary enthusiasm in entering into new commitments, claims gossip.

Such state of affairs may explain the reason behind high level visits by senior EPRDFites, including one by President Mulatu Teshome (PhD), claims gossip. Having thought to have his years studying in the same college as Keqiang, and serving as a special envoy of his country to China, not to mention his fluency in Mandarin, his visits to textile, leather and telecom companies was trusted to lure more Chinese investors, and help him get hearings from Chinese authorities, according to gossip.

Despite little hopes among those who follow the case for the government, whether he succeeded is yet to be seen, claims gossip. In the meantime, though, two veterans EPRDFites, Abay Tsehaye and Bereket Simon, have paid a visit to the dragon nation to reassure Chinese authorities that Ethiopia won’t buckle on its international commitments, gossip disclosed. Theirs too is a result remaining on the suspense, claims gossip.

Published on July 20, 2014 [ Vol 15 ,No 742]



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