As Africa’s largest trading partner, China has been financing numerous development projects on the continent since the 2000s, particularly in the energy and transport sectors.
Among the countries benefiting from this investment, Ethiopia has a record number of Chinese installations. In twenty years, China has provided the country with its first six-lane national highway ($800 million), a railway line linking its capital Addis Ababa and the seaport of Doraleh in Djibouti ($4.5 billion), the Gotera intersection ($12.7 million) and an $86 million bypass in the capital. The Chinese powerhouse also built the first metro system in sub-Saharan Africa in Addis.
In the country, the construction of two mega-dams, erected as a symbol of the African hydroelectric boom, is however highly controversial. The “Grand Ethiopian Renaissance”, located on the Nile in the north-west of the country and whose 6,000 MW capacity is equivalent to the production of 6 nuclear reactors, has been at the heart of a diplomatic dispute with Egypt and Sudan since 2011. The pharaonic “Gibe III” dam, which is supposed to supply electricity to Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Djibouti, is strongly criticised for its impact on biodiversity and the lives of local communities in the Lake Turkana region. The largest desert lake in neighbouring Kenya, Lake Turkana is a World Heritage Site. For Terri Hathaway, Africa Programme Director of International Rivers, “Gibe III” is “the most destructive dam in Africa”.