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China’s Railroad Investments Changing Africa

February 9, 2017
Plain English Version
Passengers on the new Djibouti -- Ethiopia Railroad.

Passengers on the new Djibouti — Ethiopia Railroad.

China believes in rails. The U.S. believes in walls.

The Chinese are spending billions of dollars on rail lines in Africa. A train line linking Djibouti and Ethiopia just opened. The new line is the first electric railway between two countries in Africa. An official said, “This line will change the social and economic landscape of our two countries.”

Rail lines built over the years now cross much of China. China has the know-how and the funds to finance railroads. Africa is a prime target.

Most of the lines left from the colonial era are now gone. The work in Africa continues China’s ambitions.

Chinese-built subway cars will soon appear in Chicago and Boston. Beijing is building a five billion high-speed rail line in Indonesia. The Chinese government recently opened a new rail freight service between London and Beijing. More development is in the works. The Pan-Asia Railway Network will link China to Laos, Thailand, and Singapore.

Experts say the development in Africa is the most important investment. The Chinese call it the new Silk Road initiative. It will tie China to the rest of the world. It will change the way Africans travel. It will change the way Africans do business with one another and the rest of the world.

China’s projects include a light-rail system in the Ethiopian capital.  A $13 billion rail link between Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, and the port city of Mombasa. There is also a big rail project in Nigeria. One that includes a transit system for the city of Lagos.

Corruption and political turmoil are the big dangers.

Where is the United States? The U.S. has stayed away from these kinds of projects. Mr. Obama supported a big project to give electricity to 20 million Africans. Most agree the project is far behind in its meeting its goals. African leaders do not see Donald Trump investing in Africa.

Many think that Africa is the next place for global investment. There is pent-up demand. There is low-cost labor. A U.S. expert said, “If you’re looking for new markets, Africa is the place to be. The Chinese are there. They are willing to take risks.”

Right now, the U.S. does not see Africa’s big future.

Source: The New York Times February 7, 2017

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