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For the Common Good: Green Development Becomes a Hallmark of Ethiopian Capital's New Iconic Landmark

Updated: November 24, 2022

The first China-aided overseas park construction project, the riverside green development project in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, which included Sheger Park's Friendship Square, was constructed by the First Highway Engineering Group Co., Ltd. of China Communications Construction Company Limited (CCCC). During the 11-month construction, staff workers of the CCCC First Highway Engineering Group Co., Ltd. successfully overcame various unfavorable factors such as difficulties in material sourcing and a resurgence of COVID-19 cases and climatic conditions.

Sheger Park's Friendship Square is a comprehensive urban square with the largest size and the most diverse functions in Africa. It has become a new iconic landmark in Addis Ababa and has won wide acclaim among visitors. The success in the building of the riverside green development project has showcased the adherence to the green development-oriented construction philosophy and technical strength behind CCCC and marked the completion of its participation in China's overseas assistance.

Ethiopia is the second most populous country on the African continent, the headquarters of the African Union, and one of the fastest growing economies in Africa. It is also an important strategic cooperative partner for China in Africa and plays a leading role in promoting China-Africa Belt and Road cooperation. CCCC has sought development with the building of high-quality projects, underscored the principles of respect and equality in the assimilation of local culture, and participated in the building of a harmonious community via inclusive and open approaches over the past two decades. The firm has proactively followed the guiding principles of pursuing green, low-carbon, circular and sustainable development and protecting lush mountains and lucid waters and all living beings on the planet. It has shown support for the green-oriented and long-range plans for the all-round development of the Ethiopian tourism industry, made full use of its strength in green and environmentally-friendly construction, and undertaken the building of the riverside green development project, which it completed in 2020, not only helping to develop the Ethiopian economy and improving the living standard of local residents but also promoting the implementation of the concept that lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets. Together with the Ethiopian people, the Chinese company has found a path for the country's green and sustainable development.


A rendering of the China-aided riverside green development project in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa [Photo provided to sasac.gov.cn]

Helping formerly barren land gain a new look and promoting integrated development between economic and ecological sectors

At the foot of the compound of the Prime Minister in Addis Ababa, the river bank used to be covered with weeds and household and industrial waste because of neglectful management. It was in the past a natural place for local people to dump their garbage. The CCCC First Highway Engineering Group Co., Ltd. successfully transformed the former polluted river bank into Sheger Park's Friendship Square, which is a comprehensive urban square with the most diverse functions and the largest area in Africa, in a span of 11 months. Right now, the newly built square comprises a celebration square, a flower belt, a man-made lake, an artistic garden, a palm gallery, a musical fountain and relief sculpture. It can meet diverse demands of the Ethiopian people for celebration, exhibition, science and education, leisure and entertainment, and has become a new iconic landmark in Addis Ababa and a new brand for Ethiopia.

The project has brought about many positive changes to and injected vitality into the river course and bank. In the past, local people were reluctant to visit its site. Now, they flock to the large-scale outdoors leisure and entertainment venue to relax. The building of Sheger Park's Friendship Square has fundamentally transformed the living environment of local residents and improved their living standard. It has won high acclaim from both the Ethiopian president and prime minister. On the eve of 2020 New Year, the Ethiopian government held a grand ceremony in Sheger Park's Friendship Square. In her message for the New Year, Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde said that the China-aided riverside green development project represented the glory of Addis Ababa and that all Ethiopian people were proud of it.


The scenery of the China-aided riverside green development project in Addis Ababa [Photo provided to sasac.gov.cn]

Intensive design, planning and construction by the CCCC First Highway Engineering Group Co., Ltd. made it possible to achieve the miraculous transformation of the river course and bank within 11 months. With its rich service and operating experience in Ethiopia, the Chinese firm considered the riverside green development project as its paramount task and took into account factors of limited construction time, huge workloads and political importance. The Chairman of the firm personally took charge of the project, coordinated the resources of over 20 other projects in Ethiopia to support it, and dispatched leading personnels with sufficient overseas working experience to the construction site in Addis Ababa.

Since its completion, the riverside green development project has attracted visits of many local people as well as others from abroad, brought Ethiopian cultural tourism to the attention of many investors, and driven the development of an adjacent service economy and the overall Ethiopian economy. The project created nearly 2,500 employment opportunities for Ethiopian people and stimulated the growth of local flower-plant and stone material suppliers. Sheger Park's Friendship Square is now receiving an average of 200 daily visitors. It has provided nearly 300 people with employment opportunities in the sectors of management, catering and landscaping.


A photo shows the scenery of the China-aided riverside green development project in Addis Ababa [Photo provided to sasac.gov.cn]

The China-aided riverside green development project has not only promoted the development of Ethiopian tourism and created employment opportunities for the Ethiopian people but has also successfully addressed long-existing environmental pollution and ecological degradation. During their visit to the project, Ethiopian officials hailed it as a demonstration project inspiring their country to redouble its efforts in the development of the tourism industry. The Ethiopian government is planning to build three similar parks in Oromiya, Amhara and Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People's Region. The riverside green development project has become a demonstration project for the implementation of the development philosophy of both sustainable symbiosis and human-nature harmonious co-existence and charted a course for Ethiopia in the pursuit of a more harmonious, beautiful and green future.

Technology-driven development reshapes Ethiopian ecological environment

Addis Ababa is a capital city located on a plateau at an altitude of 2,400 meters. Its ability to withstand climate change is weak and its ecological environment is relatively fragile. Natural disasters like rising temperature, drought and mountain floods have depleted lots of natural resources and exercised negative pressure on the city's production capacity. It was an extremely difficult task to minimize negative impacts on the integrity of the local ecological environment from the riverside green development project, which encompassed over 20 types of specific construction tasks. Nevertheless, the demonstration project still managed to reduce its energy consumption and waste and ameliorate the local ecological environment instead of adding further ecological burdens. CCCC's huge technological strength is of vital importance for realizing sustainable project development.

After years of neglect, water pollution in the river became a major headache for residents in Addis Ababa. To thoroughly resolve water pollution and achieve the sustainable and clean utilization of water resources in the river, the CCCC First Highway Engineering Group Co., Ltd. took into account local conditions and made pioneering efforts in the application of many new construction materials and techniques, which were fresh to both Ethiopia and East Africa. Apart from undertaking the treatment of a 1.2-kilometer-long river course, the firm has built a semi-underground and one-stop sewage treatment plant. Compared with traditional sewage treatment facilities in Ethiopia, the newly built sewage treatment plant occupies less land, boasts higher pragmatic values, and achieves sustainable pollution management with a high-quality, efficient, clean and green approach.


The building of a man-made lake in the riverside green development project is beneficial for climatic improvement in the region.[Photo provided to sasac.gov.cn]

Moreover, the riverside green development project has provided a new home for many wild animals in Ethiopia. However, the eight-month dry season in Ethiopia has posed a huge challenge to their survival. For this reason, the project incorporated an artificial lake in its design from the beginning in order to create moisture in the surrounding area. Construction workers adopted new waterproof and breathable materials, which were expected to have a long service life and ensure normal circulation of the micro-ecosystem in the lake. Now, even in the prolonged dry season, wildlife has a safe place to rest. The man-made lake has become the habitat for nearly a hundred species of birds.

Receiving donations of wanted trees from local residents and forging bilateral consensuses on green development

The riverside green development project stays committed to the design concept of harmonious co-existence between humans and nature. At the early stages of their design, workers from the CCCC First Highway Engineering Group Co., Ltd. made full consideration of natural conditions in Ethiopia and reserved an area of 150,800 square meters for the building of a natural outdoor oxygen bar. It was initially intended to be a home for 80 kinds of trees, including 40 rare species like Araucaria. It was a thorny problem for constructors to find sufficient plants in a limited time because of the shortage of professional greening and seedling companies in Ethiopia.

Therefore, the riverside green development project dispatched all personnel available to collect the wanted plants in Ethiopia. The project department contacted a gardening and greening expert from an Ethiopian university and invited him to hold professional training for 150 newly recruited people before allowing them to gather target trees. A majority of candidate trees were found in the month-long search, yet there was no clue about how to find 76 Araucaria trees.


Sheger Park's Friendship Square serves as a natural outdoor oxygen bar for local residents. [Photo provided to sasac.gov.cn]

Just when the search of Araucaria trees came to a standstill, a well-dressed senior Ethiopian man came to Xin Bin, vice-manager of the project department, saying that there was an Araucaria tree at his home and that he wanted to donate it to the project, assuring Xin that he could always plant a smaller one. Later, Xin and his teammates found that it was a 12-meter-high Araucaria tree worth over 20,000 yuan (about US$ 2,802). They were deeply grateful to the Ethiopian elder for his generous action. With the support of the Chinese embassy, the project eventually brought together all wanted Araucaria trees. To systematically consolidate the efforts made by the Ethiopian people in the cause of greening, the project also built a greenhouse and invited Chinese gardening and greening experts to introduce Chinese greenhouse planting techniques to the African country, hoping to satisfy a sustainable green hope reachable by local people. These efforts won high acclaim from the local government and people.

The support from the governments and people of the two countries is the key to the success of the riverside green development project. What has brought them together is the project's commitment to the principle of harmonious co-existence between mankind and nature and the green, clean and sustainable development concept. The two countries have been united by their consensus on the pursuit of sustainable symbiosis. Meanwhile, both the Chinese firm and the Ethiopian people have rallied closely around their adherence to sustainable development.

Imparting Chinese technologies to Ethiopia plants hope for sustainable development

Messi is a faculty member with working experience for over a decade in the general office of the CCCC First Highway Engineering Group Co., Ltd. When asked about whether she had ever felt regretful for the decision to give up her previous career as a model, she said that she was happy to work with the Chinese firm to do something for Ethiopia and that she would make the same choice if there were another option available for her. She explained that Chinese enterprises and its riverside green development project have built an all-round green and beautiful square for Ethiopia, imparted the green and low-carbon construction concept and professional techniques to the Ethiopian people and planted the development philosophy of sustainable symbiosis and harmonious co-existence between humans and nature in the hearts of the Ethiopian people.

With regard to its construction standards, the CCCC First Highway Engineering Group Co., Ltd. has set up a system of green management comprised of a manual on safety production, quality oversight, a framework and guidance for energy-saving supervision and criteria, a statistical report on the monitoring of energy conservation and a report on submitting information to guide its employees to follow the practice of green construction.


Chinese technical workers provide their Ethiopian colleagues with professional guidance at their construction sites.[Photo provided to sasac.gov.cn]

During its construction, the CCCC First Highway Engineering Group Co., Ltd. has attached great importance to the implementation of standard regulations at the construction sites, established standard templates, required its construction workers to make well-designed plans for reserve land before the opening of relevant projects, supported the practice of collecting and dumping soil from barren land, and made the utmost efforts to reduce energy consumption and strengthen energy conservation.

Besides, the CCCC First Highway Engineering Group Co., Ltd. has put in place a sound talent training mechanism for the riverside green development project in light of the technical competence of Ethiopian employees. The efforts to help more Ethiopian workers master solid professional expertise have won the Chinese enterprise a nickname of Addis Ababa Technical School among local people.

Ethiopia is a global leader in long-distance running events. During its operation in the African country, the CCCC First Highway Engineering Group Co., Ltd. took into full account local people's love for long-distance running events and established a national-level relay race, making health and green the theme. So far, the relay race has been held for 15 years in a row in Ethiopia. It has allowed the registration of all people regardless of their occupations, ages and nationalities, and received a warm response from Ethiopian people from all social sectors. The participation of people from different countries and various social and economic sectors in the joyful, healthy and low-carbon competition has created opportunities for them to make joint contributions to the building of a harmonious community and to improve the friendship between China and Ethiopia.

(Executive editor: Li Zhiyong)