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Ethiopia asks India’s support to improve railways with Djibouti


February 2, 2010 (NEW DELHI) — Ethiopia seeks India’s help in developing a railways linking the landlocked country with the neighboring Djibouti allowing access to the sea.

The railways project aims at improving the cargo capacity of the rail track to 17 tones, which stands at 14 tones. Upon completion, the project will boost the national trade volume significantly.

The Ethio-Djibouti Railways is the successor of the Imperial Railway Company of Ethiopia and jointly owned by the governments of Ethiopia and Djibouti which received the French shares after its independence in 1977.

The single 781 km railway has a 1,000 mm gauge, most of it on Ethiopian territory and about 100 km in Djibouti.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zanawi tackled the project with the visiting Indian Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor Jan 29 on the sidelines of the African Union summit in Addis Ababa.

According to officials, the Ethiopian Prime Minister had specifically sought India’s help in establishing a link to Djibouti as it is a landlocked country.

The Ethiopian government has recently signed an agreement of understanding with four foreign companies, including India’s Overseas Investment Alliance and two Chinese group, to undertake studies for the railway project.

The project will be awarded to the company that comes up with the financing first.

The Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway is part of the government’s plan to lay down 5,000 km of track along seven different routes of economic importance. The next phase will see another track linking Ethiopia to Kenya.

India has a thriving trade with Ethiopia of nearly $500 million. The total Indian investment in the country was about $4 billion, out of which $1 billion worth of projects has already been implemented.

One of the few African countries with direct flights from India, Ethiopia has nearly 500 Indian companies, out of which 100 are "actively pursuing projects".

Indian officials said that the issue of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) reforms had also come up. Ethiopia, one of the countries supporting India for a permanent seat in an expanded UNSC, has agreed to work with India on the subject.

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