Ethiopia on Sunday inaugurated the Chinese-built 220 km Dire Dawa-Dewele asphalt concrete toll road, connecting landlocked Ethiopia to ports in Djibouti.

The Dire Dawa-Dewale asphalt concrete toll road, which was constructed by the Chinese construction giant CGC Overseas Construction (CGC-OC) Group Ltd., is the second toll road project in the east African country, next to the 85 km Addis Ababa-Adama toll expressway, east Africa’s first expressway.

Ethiopia’s Minister of Transport, Dagmawit Moges, said during the project inaugurating event here on Sunday that the newly inaugurated road upgraded the previously bumpy road, eventually reducing the travel time from Ethiopia’s eastern city Dire Dawa to the border town of Dawele by six hours, from the previously ten hours to four hours.

Noting the Ethiopian government’s particular emphasis on investment in the transport sector, Moges stressed that the 220 km Dire Dawa-Dewale asphalt road “will promote trade development by significantly reducing the travel cost and time.”

The Dire Dawa-Dewale asphalt concrete toll road project was built with a total construction cost of 5.2 billion Ethiopian birr (close to 180 million U.S. dollar). While 85 percent of the construction cost was obtained from the Export-Import Bank of China, the remaining 15 percent of the budget was covered by the Ethiopian government, according to the Ethiopian Roads Authority.

President of Ethiopia’s Somali regional state Mustafa Muhammed Omar also commended the economic significance of the project to the Somali region in particular and the country in general.

The regional president also urged the local community members to safeguard the newly functional road, which he said “would immensely contribute to the socio-economic betterment of the local communities along the way.”

Gao Lei, head of the CGC-OC Ethiopia office, also said during the inauguration ceremony that the Dire Dawa-Dewale asphalt road, which is part of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), was built under international standard, with particular emphasis to the timely completion of the project.

Following its inauguration on Sunday, the Dire Dawa-Dawele asphalt concrete road has been officially transferred to the Ethiopian Toll Roads Enterprises, which currently manages the Addis Ababa-Adama Expressway.

Built by another Chinese construction giant, China Communications Construction Company (CCCC), the Addis Ababa-Adama expressway is Ethiopia’s first-ever toll road. (Xinhua)