Ethio-China Cooperation Gaining Momentum
By Bereket Sisay
It is the hallmark of China-Africa solidarity and cooperation that can serve as a useful reference for international cooperation with Africa. The Chinese approach toward Africa, among many others, involves upholding friendship and equality while maintaining a shared interest under the framework of South-South Cooperation. And, this surly lay a more solid foundation for building a strong thrust for the rise of developing countries as a whole.
It is in line of this principled approach that the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) put into practice and constantly making a great strike in financing and building infrastructure throughout the developing world and thereby to realize mutual development. Ethiopia, as the traditional partner of China, was amongst the first few countries to join and start implementing the initiative while attaching a various benefit to the initiative. Since then, Ethiopia has managed to build huge infrastructures that support the structural transformation of the country and improving the lives of the people at large.
Among others, the Addis-Ababa light railway and the Addis Ababa–Djibouti Railway which connects Addis Ababa to Djibouti City and Djibouti’s Doraleh Container Terminal and various high-ways connecting many pivotal places, including within the capital city of Addis Ababa and across the country, are funded and constructed by the Belt and Road Initiative.
The Star-Alliance member, Ethiopian Airline’s terminal expansion project that was concluded two years back financed by Export-Import Bank of China. Along with this, there has been large scale development Industrial Parks with the objective of creating Special Economic Zones in different parts of Ethiopia. Chinese companies have also been highly participating in Ethiopia industrial parks especially in the textile and leather industries at large that help the country to swiftly join the global value chain networks. Moreover, around 400 Chinese construction and manufacturing projects are running in Ethiopia. The volume of trade between these two countries has shown a steady progress over the past consecutive years.
Despite the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and other equally compelling sorts of negative international phenomenon, China and Ethiopia has sought to strengthen this mutual bilateral development partnership. China is now massively engaged in numerous infrastructural developments across the country while planning to expand its commitment in the years to come as well. Therefore, it is possible to conclude that Ethiopia, as an active participant in the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, the country’s infrastructure and strengthened its industrial establishments. Ethiopian top officials have repeatedly hailed this development partnership as a critical element in facilitating the relations between the two countries. During the Ethiopia and China joint investment and trade cooperation that held in Addis Ababa in May, 2022, Demeke Mekonnen, Ethiopia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister noted that China has proven to be Ethiopia’s most trusted partner and that its support continues to sustain Ethiopia’s economic growth trajectory.
Director-General of the Department of African Affairs of the Foreign Ministry of China, Wu Peng, in his latest briefing with journalists from Africa countries, who are currently attending the China Africa Press Center 2022 fellowship under the auspices of the China Public Diplomacy Association CPDA, affirmed China’s unwavering commitment for mutual and a win-win development with Africa. He gave a positive appraisal of what has achieved so far through China’-Africa joint development-partnership while hoping to see a bright prospect in these fields of engagement.
During his briefing, he applauded the development cooperation between Ethiopia and China pledging China’s support to the Ethiopian agriculture sector in the coming years. He said that “Ethiopia could be a breadbasket for Africa” to express its huge potential in the sector as it holds a vast arable lands. Therefore, China is keen to work with Ethiopia in this area of cooperation under a right policy direction, he said. He further stated that many Chinese investors are currently engaged in agricultural development activities in many parts of Africa and they have huge interests to expand their investment in Ethiopia too.
Ethiopia has been working hard to mechanize the agricultural sector and to realize a food self-sufficient country in the near future. Recently, Ethiopia has been making a great stride in wheat production that would help the nation to export to other countries apart from fulfilling domestic needs. Therefore, Chinese pledge to provide support to Ethiopian agricultural sector comes at a critical time to accelerate the gains and to further develop the sector.
This shows that the partnership between Ethiopia and China has been strengthening and evolving over a time. By now, it is clearer that this relationship will get momentum as the new areas of cooperation begin to unfold. In November 2021, during the 8th ministerial conferences of the forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) that was held in Dakar, Senegal, President Xi Jinping announced that China will work closely with African countries to implement nine programs in the next three years to come, which are related to medical services and health, poverty reduction and agricultural development, trade and investment promotion, digital innovation, green development, capacity building, cultural and people to people exchange and peace and security. Therefore, Ethiopia, one of these African exerting efforts to salvage this opportunity to further boost its ties along these lines of cooperation based on mutual benefits. These areas of partnership are just becoming another impetus into China-Ethiopia long-lasting cooperation.