A Crumbling Metro Reveals Failed Promise of China’s Billions in Africa

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Almost a decade ago, the light-rail system in Ethiopia’s bustling capital of Addis Ababa was hailed as a revolutionary solution to the city’s transportation woes. Envisioned as a project that would redefine urban transport, the system promised to sweep up to 60,000 passengers per hour along its tracks.

Today it sits as a daily reminder of the broken promises of China-funded infrastructure investments that swept Africa in recent years. Frequent breakdowns, inadequate maintenance funding and operational constraints mean barely one-third of its 41 trains are operational, ferrying 55,000 passengers a day, a fraction of initial projections.

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Once bustling and vibrant train stations now exude an air of desolation and neglect, contrasting sharply with the city’s urgent transportation needs for its almost 4 million residents. Inoperable trains are regularly parked at the railway’s garage, awaiting maintenance.

Despite the critical shortage of transportation options in the city, commuters are increasingly opting for public buses and privately operated mini-buses, albeit at a slightly higher cost compared to the light-rail system.

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