Turkish construction giant mulls growth in Africa
Turkish construction giant Yapi Merkezi hopes a $3 billion modern railway-line project it is building in Ethiopia and Tanzania will showcase its skills and make it a "trusted development partner" in Africa.
The consortium, which prides itself on successfully building some 2,600 kilometers of line (1,615 miles) and a dozen rail systems in different parts of the world, first set foot in the African infrastructure market with its Casablanca and Algiers light railway networks.
Financial Affairs Manager Murat Ocal told Anadolu Agency its first two African projects marked the beginning of its expansion on the fast-growing continent.
"The projects were completed on a high note, and showcased our competence and Turkish technological advancement," he said.
The latest Ethiopian and Tanzanian standard-gauge railroad contract is first African mega project for the company, Ocal added.
The 3,910 km (2,430-mile) Awash-Kombolcha-Hara Gebya single-line railway project which begun in 2015 at a cost of $1.7 billion will link northern and eastern Ethiopia and also connect to a central rail network which stretches to the port of Djibouti.
According to the Ethiopian government's Growth and Transformation Plan the line will enhance the country's internal and external freight and passenger transportation capacity.
Construction of the first phase, which consists of dozens of tall bridges and long tunnels, has been successfully completed, according to Ocal.
"The second phase needs additional financing, and hopefully the Ethiopian government will fix it and we will complete it in double-quick time," he added.
Habtamu Bekele, the company's site engineer, who spoke to Anadolu Agency by phone, said the electrified rail project had unique attributes.
"I have worked with various international infrastructure contractors for many years; what is unique about Turkish professionals is that they are willing to transfer their skills, and quality is not compromised," he said.
Suleyeman Muhammed, a resident of Kombolcha, said the construction had created jobs and hopes.
''The Turkish workers know how to live and work with the local community, and we have a similar culture," he added.
The most significant feature of the project, according to Murat, was the involvement of Turkey's Eximbank in financing the construction.
"This represents the will of Turkish government, and our trusted brand which made other European financers extend credit to the project," he said.
Meles Alem, spokesperson for the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Turkish involvement in Ethiopia's development projects "are the outcome of the excellent relations both countries enjoy".
Yapi Merkezi's Tanzanian project, which was signed in April 2017, is worth $1.2 billion and its first 250-km (155 mile) section, will connect Dar es Salaam to Morogoro.
According to a company document, the railroad will provide a ground speed of 160 kilometers per hour (99 mph).
"Our model will be the same, in Ethiopia, Tanzania, and other future projects," said Ocal.
"We will provide durable European-standard technologies, empower local professionals with knowledge, and try to attract multiple financers."
He added: "These projects will be a good reference for other African countries who will build similar projects, and we will be a trusted development partner of Africa."
According to the African Development Bank, the continent's economic recovery is expected to continue with "strong growth projections over the next four decades," which will necessitate the construction cheaper, fast and environmentally safe railroads.