Aboret Alemu is toiling in the Arerti Industrial Park, currently under construction and part of Ethiopian government’s drive to build special economic zones where domestic and foreign companies can use local labor to manufacture and export goods.
The Industrial Park, located 140 kms east of the capital city Addis Ababa, is designed and being built by China Communications Construction Company (CCCC), one of several industrial parks the government is building across the country with a view to making the horn of Africa nation a manufacturing hub.
Alemu, an assistant to a site manager at the industrial park, says the experience gained from a Chinese mentor is the reason he is braving the heat and working at the site.
“Our skin colors may differ, but we feel like we’re one people. My mentor, a hardworking and efficient carpenter who has returned to China, is the one that’s motivated me to work here,” he says.
Woody Lau, Business Manager at CCCC says Arerti Industrial Park, is expected to employ about 400 persons when the first phase incorporating a ceramic plant is finished at a cost of tens of millions of US dollars.
“We’re building another industrial park in Mekelle city, capital of Tigray regional state, 783 kms north of Addis Ababa, as well as the 220 kms Mekelle-Woldiya electrified rail line,” he says, emphasizing the multi-sectoral nature of CCCC’s projects in Ethiopia.
CCCC is not new to building projects that have had strategic changes to Ethiopia, with its trademark finished project being Ethiopia’s first toll road the Addis-Ababa Adama expressway inaugurated in April 2014.
Chinese companies including CCCC are engaged in activities ranging from building industrial parks, setting up leather factories, constructing rail lines and roads.
The Ethiopian government is relying on help from Chinese firms to give employment opportunities to its predominantly young population, boost knowledge transfer and earn much needed hard currency for its fast developing economy.
With a mostly young population of about 100 million the second largest in Africa after Nigeria, Ethiopia is betting on investments in industrial parks including from Chinese firms to help meet the demands of job market and keep the nation stable and prosperous.