How one Chinese-built Railway is Igniting Economic Growth in Africa

Source: Xinhua| 

— Chinese-built Benguela Railway, a major project in Angola, constitutes the last part of the east-west transcontinental link that connects the Indian and Atlantic oceans.

— During the railway’s 10 years of construction, more than 25,000 jobs for locals were created and more than 5,000 locals received training for technicians.

— This line, which carries more than 16 million tonnes of freight per year, plays an important role in the economic development of Angola and that of Africa as a whole.

The Rovos Rail luxurious train pulls out of the Lobito Station along the Benguela Railway, Angola, Aug. 2, 2019. (Photo by Liu Zhi/Xinhua)

BEIJING, Oct. 10 (Xinhua) — The Chinese-built Benguela Railway in Angola has brought out the entrepreneurial spirit in Jacob Fumanhi Sachicata.

Every week, Sachicata, an inhabitant of the Angolan town of Luau, travels to the Atlantic port city of Lobito, buys a large amount of seafood and then sells it in the Luau market.

Benguela Railway, a major project in Angola, constitutes the last part of the east-west transcontinental link that connects the Indian and Atlantic oceans, crossing Tanzania, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Sachicata said that this line has become the main source of income for his family.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), which has grown into a key platform for collective dialogue and practical cooperation between China and African countries. Sachicata’s story is a small but stellar example of the beneficial cooperation between China and Africa.

Luis Lopes Teixeira (R), Chairman of the Benguela Railway company (CFB-EP) and Han Shuchen, General Manager of CR20 Angola International Company display a certificate at the official handover ceremony of Benguela Railway in Lobito, Angola on Oct. 3, 2019. (Xinhua/Liu Zhi)

ARDUOUS EFFORTS

The Benguela Railway, which was built by the China Railway 20 Bureau Group Corporation (CR20), was officially handed over to Angola in the port city of Lobito on Oct. 3, 2019.

The 1,344-km railway runs through Angola, from west of the Atlantic port city of Lobito, eastward through cities such as Benguela, Huambo, Kuito and Luena, and reaches the border city of Luau, bordering the DRC.

According to the CR20 Angola International Company, the Chinese-built railway, which started construction in January 2006, was one of the most important projects in Angola after the civil war.

During 10 years of construction, the Chinese company created more than 25,000 jobs for locals, and trained more than 5,000 technicians, including drivers, line workers, communication and signal technicians, said the Chinese company.

Workers of China Railway 20th Bureau Group Corporation perform maintenance work for the Benguela Railway in Lobito, Angola, Aug. 2, 2019.(Photo by Liu Zhi/Xinhua)

Because of natural disasters, diseases and landmines, more than 20 Chinese employees and two local employees sacrificed their lives in the construction of the project, according to the Chinese company.

Duan Zhihua, who participated in the project, recalled that landmines left over from the civil war, communication difficulties and inconvenient transportation presented huge hurdles during construction.

GOLDEN BELT

On July 30, 2019, the international tourist train “Pride of Africa” arrived in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania from Benguela, inaugurating the journey of a passenger train providing a link between the two oceans.

The Benguela Railway in Angola is the last section of the 4,300-km railway, which is seen as an important artery that connects the two main oceans. It has largely improved the African rail network and bolstered regional connectivity by facilitating trade and boosting economic and cultural relations on the continent.

Staff of China Railway 20 Bureau who constructed the Benguela Railway pose for a group photo with visitors from Rovos Rail, in Lobito, Angola, July 30, 2019.(Xinhua/Liu Zhi)

The Benguela Railway brings tangible benefits to residents along the line, embodying the friendship between the peoples of China and Angola, said the director general of the Angolan Railway Institute, Ottoniel Manuel.

After the construction of the railway, markets formed nearby almost all the newly-built stations. Augusto Icuma, a sugarcane seller, said that passengers constitute a stable source of customers.

“Now business is going very well,” Augusto said. “The Benguela Railway has brought us prosperity and hope.”

This line, which carries more than 16 million tonnes of freight per year, plays an important role in the economic development of Angola and that of Africa as a whole.

Omar Capusso (2nd L), chief of Lobito Station, speaks with staff members of China Railway 20th Bureau Group Corporation in Lobito, Angola, Aug. 2, 2019.(Photo by Liu Zhi/Xinhua)

In March 2018, the first freight train loaded with ore left the DRC for the port of Lobito, relaunching Angola’s international rail trade that had been interrupted for more than 30 years and significantly reducing the costs of resource exports for countries along the line, such as the DRC or Zambia.

BRIGHT FUTURE

During the two decades of FOCAC’s existence, China has built more than 6,000 km of railways and roads as well as nearly 20 ports and more than 80 large power plants, all of which have powered industrialization in Africa and enhanced the continent’s ability to independently develop, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in January.

Likewise, “within the framework of the FOCAC and the Belt and Road Initiative of which many African countries have become partners, I think we can begin to see a synergy to narrow the gap in our infrastructure deficit,” said Charles Onanaiju, director of the Center for China Studies in Nigeria.

When chairing the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity against COVID-19 in June, Chinese President Xi Jinping encouraged China and African countries to strengthen Belt and Road cooperation and accelerate the follow-ups to the FOCAC Beijing Summit.

People attend the handover ceremony of the Benguela Railway in Lobito, Angola, Oct. 3, 2019. (Photo by Liu Zhi/Xinhua)

Peter Kagwanja, founding president and chief executive of Kenya’s Africa Policy Institute, a pan-African think tank, said the launch of FOCAC in 2000 moved cooperation to a whole new level in the 21st century, providing a new strategic framework for collaboration in Africa’s industrialization and infrastructure.

“The forum has been instrumental in forging cooperation, solidarity and relationship between Africa and China, and many people and countries have benefited from this relationship,” said Namibian Health and Social Services Minister Kalumbi Shalunga.

“If we align the practical tangibles involved in the Belt and Road to the prospects of African free trade area, you will see a very huge future ahead of us,” Charles said.■

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