Feature: China-sponsored program empowers young train drivers in Africa

Source:xinhua 2023-10-11

Anketsebrhan Girma, a 28-year-old train driver at the Ethiopia-Djibouti Standard Gauge Railway, has long dreamed of becoming one of the pioneer modern train drivers in Ethiopia.

"When I saw trains, especially trains of China, on TV and online, I thought it was very cool. How to operate a train as it is so long? I really wanted to figure that out," Girma said of her childhood dream.

In 2018, Girma went through fierce competition and entered the Ethiopia-Djibouti Standard Gauge Railway Share Company after graduating from Adama University, becoming the first female driving an electrified train in the East African country.

Since July this year, Girma, an assistant driver with three years of experience, has been in China along with 27 colleagues to receive a six-month training for electrified train driving.

During the training at Zhengzhou Railway Vocational and Technical College, Girma sensed the warmth from her Chinese teachers. "When I felt sick, my tutor drove me to the hospital and accompanied me all the time. They are both my teachers and my friends," Girma said.

In 2019, the college in Zhengzhou signed an agreement with the Ethiopia-Djibouti Standard Gauge Railway Share Company to train electric locomotive drivers for the Ethiopia-Djibouti Standard Gauge Railway, or shortly Ethiopia-Djibouti Railway.

The 752-km railway, also known as the Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway, is the first electrified transboundary railway in Africa, a flagship project under the framework of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative.

The first group of 34 trainees have fully commanded the skills of driving, monitoring, diagnosing and maintaining electrified trains, and have the capability of independently driving them after eight months of study in the college.

After returning to their homeland, they have quickly become the backbone of the Ethiopia-Djibouti Railway, safely chauffeuring across the vast East African plateau.

As one of the 34 trainees, Dejen Gezu is among the first in the country to get license for electrified trains issued by the Ethiopian Ministry of Transport and Logistics.

He is now tasked with dual responsibilities of safely chauffeuring the Chinese-built Ethiopia-Djibouti Railway and supervising fellow train drivers such as Girma in their pursuit of fully mastering the trains.

"Before I came to China, I dreamed of becoming a train driver who could drive the trains independently like Gezu," Girma said.

The Chinese operation team has always attached great significance to the construction of the operational capacity of the Ethiopia-Djibouti Railway, and has endeavored to provide the local employees with technology transfer and skill training.

With the help of Chinese technology, the railway has cut the shipping time for goods from more than three days to less than 20 hours, and reduced the cost by at least one-third, substantially facilitating the imports and exports of Ethiopia, a landlocked country in the Horn of Africa.

"As Ethiopia has no sea or port, it takes a few days to deliver goods to and from Djibouti by road transport, which is a waste of time and energy. The Ethiopia-Djibouti Railway can greatly cut the time and cost. It is like the backbone of our country," said Girma.

Abdi Zenebe, chief executive officer of the Ethiopia-Djibouti Standard Gauge Railway Share Company, stressed the importance of skill training.

"During the construction and operation of the program, Chinese experts have helped in training about 3,000 professionals on railway techniques, laying a solid foundation for the development of the railway industry in the two countries," Zenebe said. 


Copyright © 2004, Secretariat of the Chinese Follow-up Committee of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation
Contact us Address: No. 2, Chaoyangmen Nandajie, Chaoyang District, Beijing, 100701 Tel: 86-10-65962810,86-10-65962827