Africa

The 5 largest China-backed railways in Africa

Updated 5:56 AM ET, Tue January 17, 2017
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Since the first Chinese-backed railway, Tazara, was unveiled in the 1970s, four new billion-dollar railways have emerged across Africa. Flickr/Richard Stupart
In the past 30 years, the Chinese have stepped in several times to repair the line, which cuts through the Selous Game Reserve in the south of Tanzania. Stretching 1,860 kilometers from Dar es Salaam to New Kapiri Mposhi, it's still an example showcasing what China can do, experts say. Photo: Rob/BBMExplorer Rob/bbmexplorer
Tanzania and Zambia borrowed $500 million from China to cover the costs of the railway. The Chinese-built railways are constructed by a number of companies such as China Civil and Engineering Construction Company (CCECC), China Railway Group and China Railway Engineering Corporation, some of which are connected to the state.
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The latest to be inaugurated, in January 2017, is a 756-kilometer railway which links Ethiopia's Addis Ababa to Djibouti. ZACHARIAS ABUBEKER/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
The price tag was $3.5 billion, 70% of which was provided by the China Export Import bank (Exim), according to the SAIS China-Africa Research Institute (SAIS-CARI). African countries borrowed nearly $10 billion for railways between 2000 and 2014. ZACHARIAS ABUBEKER/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
The new line gives landlocked Ethiopia access to the Red Sea port in Djibouti. If all goes as planned, it will link up to a planned rail network connecting East African countries such as South Sudan, Uganda and Kenya. ZACHARIAS ABUBEKER/AFP/Getty Images
The railway forms part of the so-called EAC Rail Sector Enhancement Project, also called the East African Railway Masterplan, managed by the East Africa Community (EAC) which plans to link Mombasa with other major East African cities such as Kampala in Uganda, and Juba in South Sudan. TONY KARUMBA/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Kenya is spearheading the project, with a new 472-kilometers-long standard gauge line connecting Mombasa to Nairobi taking shape. TONY KARUMBA/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
The projects are not without controversy. In Kenya for example, the railway cuts through nature reserve, causing a stir among conservationists who say it will disturb wildlife. China has also been criticized for bringing their own workers, instead of employing locals. TONY KARUMBA/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
According to research by SAIS, about 1 in 10 workers are Chinese across the projects. For the Mombasa to Nairobi line, the Chinese construction company used 25,000 Kenyan workers and 3,000 Chinese, and some Kenyans were trained in China, the research showed. TONY KARUMBA/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Kenya's new railway cost $4 billion, with China Exim Bank funding $3.6 billion of the total cost, according to SAIS. estimates. TONY KARUMBA/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Sudan's very own Chinese railway opened in 2014. The so-called Nile Train is 782 kilometers long, extending from Port Sudan via Atbara to the capital, Khartoum. ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
China lent Sudan nearly $1.1 billion toward the $1.5 billion project, according to SAIS. ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
The line currently ends near the Nile River in the Sudanese capital Kartoum but future lines are expected to connect the railway to neighboring countries. PATRICK BAZ/AFP/Getty Images
Unveiled in July 2016, a new line in Nigeria connects federal capital city Abuja to the city of Kaduna further north. STRINGER/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Nigerian President Mohammadu Buhari (right) signs visitor's register during an opening ceremony in July 2016. China Exim bank loaned $500 million toward the railway, which cost a total of $874 million, according to SAIS. SUNDAY AGHAEZE/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
The 187-kilometer standard gauge track has nine stations. The Chinese have also partly funded rehabilitation of existing railways in Angola, such as the old colonial railway Benguela, as well as two urban light railways in Abuja, Nigeria and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia according to SAIS. STRINGER/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
The new Chinese trains in East Africa will run at speeds between 80 and 120 miles per hour. However, faster trains could be on the horizon, as the African Union has plan to link up all major cities in Africa with a new Chinese-funded, high-speed project as part of their Agenda 2063.
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Between 2000 and 2011, the Chinese backed more than 1,700 projects, from buildings to dams in 50 African countries at a cost of $75 billion, according to AidData. Is China paying for everything in Africa? Not quite. Overall, more than $131 billion was spent on transportation construction in Africa in 2015 alone, with another $200 billion expected to be spent on the continent's roads, and another $7 billion on airports by 2025. ZACHARIAS ABUBEKER/AFP/AFP/Getty Images