New studies are being conducted by the Ethiopian Railway Corporation (ERC) to examine the viability of establishing railway networks connecting Ethiopia to the ports of Berbera, Lamu, and Assab, three years after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) inked agreements with neighboring nations, including Sudan and Somalia, to build ports as a gateway for Africa’s most populous landlocked country. While the corporation is conducting pre-feasibility studies utilizing internal capacity, the corporation is linking Ethiopia with other ports through railway, which is projected to reduce the country’s overdependence on Djibouti ports, which handle over 80% of its imports.
The Corporation has already received financial commitments, notably the Italian government’s agreement to fund the Ethiopian-Eritrean railway project. The African Development Bank (AfDB) and the French government have made pledges in the case of Berbera port. AfDB is also investing USD 1.2 million in a feasibility study for a railway project that aims to connect Ethiopia with Port Sudan. In addition, CPCS Transcom, a Canadian Infrastructure Analyst firm, is also conducting the feasibility assessment.
The route starts at Woldiya and runs through Metema town to the Sudanese port. Over the next ten years, the Ministry of Transport plans to install 4,000 kilometers of railway lines. The Lamu railway project will include a fuel pipeline in addition to the multimodal system. The project financing will be mobilized after the feasibility studies are completed, either from government coffers or from credit institutions. However, until funding is secured from development partners, the Corporation is currently avoiding initiatives that need significant outlays in foreign currency. Railway projects such as the Awash-Woldiya railway project have also been ‘temporarily stopped’ by the corporation.
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