BY HABTAMU FELEKE-Through thick and thin, China and Ethiopia have since the Covid-19 outbreak maintained close partnership supporting each other and sharing experience. On April 16, Chinese task force to Ethiopia together with urgent medical supplies, including surgical masks, personal protective equipment, “non-invasive” ventilators and traditional Chinese medicine, arrived in the Eastern African country.
Along with the inter-government cooperation, Ethiopia-based Chinese businesses have long started their contribution to the medical and life supplies of their Ethiopian business partners and public departments, a timely support for the country’s capability of handling the outbreak. Addis Ababa Silk Road General Hospital, best in Ethiopia to treat contagious diseases, has proudly cured the first critical case infected with novel coronavirus in the country.The medical workers’ competency, tested by time, is boosting public confidence in the national fighting with the virus.
The China-funded hospital has been recently designated by the Ethiopian government to specialize in treating the Covid-19 patients in the country, and that entails even more responsibility from Chinese companies. With 24-hour ongoing work, China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC) had finished updating the Silk Road Hospital at a break-neck pace, allowing it to better cope with the growing number of the patients related to the coronavirus.
The local operation of Huajian Group, the Chinese high-end shoe maker, had made its quick response by offering pandemic prevention materials worth of RMB 2 million to the country. The materials transfer ceremony was joined by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed who tweeted his gratitude and called for more cooperative efforts to build the country’s capacity. Chinese enterprises in Ethiopia, like CCECC, CCCC, CEEC, CREC, TECNO, and Eastern Industrial Park, just to name a few, have also done their part to supply face masks and bleach among other personal protective stuff.
Particularly informed of the most needed materials in Ethiopia, Chinese businesses here had mobilized professional medical supplies from China, including ventilators, protective garments, quarantine outfits, testkits, swabs, and intelligent thermometers, to Ethiopian medical institutions. For example, Zhende Medical Co. Ltd., a Chinese-funded medical supplier, eased the pressure of Ministry of Health with 1,000 sets of protective garments, 1,000 pieces of quarantine outfits, and 20,000 pieces of KN95 face masks. CCCC helped mitigate the Capital’s strain by providing 5 water trucks for Addis Ababa’s disinfection endeavor.
Projects undertaken by Chinese firms in Ethiopia are delivering their tangible benefits amid the Covid-19 outbreak, supporting the fight against the virus and the efforts to maintain the economic growth.
Ethio-Djibouti Railway, the electrified modern transit built and operated by CCECC and CREC, has never wavered in its transportation of goods across the difficulties arising from the pandemic. Over 20,000 containers, 40,000 tonnes of fertilizers, and 40,000 tons of grains etc. had been carried through the railway from its neighbor Djibouti, sustaining not only the businesses but the people’s livelihood. Ethio-Djibouti Railway and its Chinese team have even under the Covid-19 pressure realized a noticeable increase in the freight transportation capacity over the same period of last year.
Normal transportation doesn’t tell the whole story. Ethio-Djibouti Railway demonstrates its capacity and efficiency by offering national emergency services. Right after the first confirmed case in March, university students in Dire Dawa, an eastern city in Ethiopia, badly needed to return their hometown, especially the Capital Addis. The Chinese operation team of the Railway closely evaluated the situation and worked out a scientific plan, successfully facilitating two special passenger trains for the movement of 1,267 students from Dire Dawa, after the thorough disinfection and cleaning inside the trains.
Chinese-built industrial parks are yet another example of Chinese efforts on this land. Sansheng Pharmaceutical PLC hosted in Eastern Industrial Park shifted its previous business to producing public-demanded disinfectant sanitizer. A company in Hawassa Industrial Park, the most successful industrial park in the country built and trained by CCECC, has started its manufacturing of face masks, with the daily production of over 20,000 pieces.
China, despite the former epicenter, has witnessed remarkable headway and acquired first-hand experience in controlling the spread of Covid-19, especially thanks to the unforgettable efforts and sacrifice by its people. The hard-learned prevention experience is now being adopted by Chinese companies in Ethiopia, attuning all their staff to a healthy and science-based protection environment.
Even a week before the first case in Ethiopia, CCECC’s headquarter in Ethiopia had rolled out restrictive measures and distributed personal protective materials to each of its employees.The initial measures included a shuttle bus for local employees to minimize their contact with people outside the office, and then the teleworking mechanism as a response to the local government. CCECC Ethiopia also carried out training programs to educate its staff and their families on how to work home and stay safe.
During the freight transportation of Ethio-Djibouti Railway, the management team has introduced holistic measures, doing pubic disinfection, setting hand washing facilities, and dispatching face masks to all staff along the 752-kilometer rail line.
A volunteer team was established, made up of its own employees, Chinese and local, by the CCCC Bole Airport Project Office and vividly communicated the public about the prevention knowledge. CCCC’s project team in Addis Ababa Science and Technology University even compiled a prevention manual in English, based on the experience from China and the status quo from locality, for all Chinese contractors in Ethiopia.
Chinese Embassy in Ethiopia has since the outbreak issued a series of regulations targeted to Chinese-funded enterprises to safeguard the two peoples living in the country. For example, everyone will practise a 14-day quarantine after entering Ethiopia as requested by the Embassy. It turns out that all companies strictly followed the regulations, and there is no single confirmed case imported from China.
Chinese projects in Ethiopia has overcome all the hardship and continued with its economic contribution. The China-aid “Beautifying Sherger” is a livelihood project to make the city greener, cleaner and more livable. Its all-round significance and tight construction schedule make the work more tough amid the pandemic, and the constructor CCCC is making ongoing progress while following the social distancing measures. Only within months, a beautiful landscape emerges from what was full of sewage and wastes.
Sinoma (Suzhou) Construction Co. Ethiopia Branch, while protecting the staff from infection, also advances their production to meet the market demands. It develops a “Cloud model” to manage and oversee the production schedule, seeing 99.66% of the kiln operation in March, 2020 and a record high output of cement clinker for a single month.
Hardship reveals friendship. Chinese companies’ support to Ethiopia in its fight with Covid-19 features sincerity and pragmatism, an epitome of people-to-people connection. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the two countries’ diplomatic relations. The ever stronger partnership is the very gift for it and a bigger picture – China-Africa Community with shared future – is unfolding even further.