ADDIS ABABA, (Xinhua) — The upcoming Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, slated to be held later this month in Beijing, is a vital platform to spur Ethiopia’s economy and infrastructure, Ethiopian officials and scholars told Xinhua.
Costantinos Bt. Costantinos, who served as an economic advisor to the African Union (AU) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), said on Thursday that more than any other nation in Africa, Ethiopia is the first beneficiary of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) through the Addis Ababa-Djibouti rail link, as well as various other infrastructure projects across the nation.
The East African country, which is one of the countries cooperating with China in implementing the BRI, has made various achievements, which also included the 500-million-U.S. dollar Addis Ababa-Adama expressway, the first expressway in Ethiopia and East Africa, as well as the Addis Ababa Light Rail, a 475-million-U.S.-dollar project built with Chinese technology and expertise.
Costantinos, also a professor of public policy at the Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia, said that Ethiopia “can still harness various other achievements from the Belt and Road by fostering its positive relations with China.”
According to the expert, the upcoming forum in Beijing is “an important platform to foster the ties,” with particular emphasis given to strengthening cooperation on the BRI.
Proposed in 2013, the BRI aims to build trade and infrastructure networks connecting Asia with Europe and Africa. It comprises the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.
Costantinos’s remarks came amid the Ethiopian government’s recent announcement that it will send a strong delegation to the forum, including Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and various other high-level officials.
Nebiat Getachew, spokesperson of the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, also told Xinhua recently that Ethiopia and China already enjoy multifaceted ties, which are expected to be further strengthened at the upcoming forum.
“Ethiopia is a strong partner of China in the African continent. Ethiopia’s expected attendance at the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation is a further testament to the strong bilateral ties,” said Getachew.
As Beijing is presently gearing up for the success of the forum, Costantinos also outlined various other areas of cooperation with the potential to be further developed during the upcoming forum.
“The various industrial parks that are active across Ethiopia, the new airports and potentially the Eritrean ports that are now available to Ethiopia’s growing economy have all the potential to further benefit from the Belt and Road,” the expert argued.
Ethiopian enterprises, such as the Ethiopian Airlines Group, have also expressed their keen interest in harnessing various opportunities that are available during the forum.
Ethiopian Airlines Group CEO Tewolde Gebremariam said the approaching forum would be an “ideal platform” to boost the airline’s global presence. The CEO stressed the airline’s aspiration to use the BRI to augment its flight networks.
Ethiopian Airlines, which is considered as Africa’s largest airline, expects to establish partnership agreements with two Chinese airports on the sidelines of the forum, Gebremariam said.
He revealed that the airline looks forward to signing cooperation agreements with Chinese Chongqing and Zhengzhou airports to start cargo flights between Ethiopia and China,” Gebremariam added.