A Chinese state-run firm is to build the final section of a new railway line that will link its capital Addis Ababa to its neighbouring Red Sea state of Djibouti.

Under the deal signed by Ethiopia on 16 December, the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) will build a rail line to cover the 339 km between Mieso and Djibouti, via Dire Dawa and Dewele. CCECC is expected to complete the work in the next three and half years.

The China Railway Engineering Corporation (CREC) won the tender to construct the first half of the route, from Sebeta town, outside Addis Ababa, to Meiso, which is about halfway between the capital and the Djibouti border.

Both Chinese companies brokered loans for Ethiopia from China's EXIM Bank, Development Bank of China and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) to fund construction of the overall 659 km Ethiopia-Djibouti rail route.

There is an existing single rail road linking Addis Ababa, via Dire Dawa, to Djibouti port, although it is believed that there has been no passenger service available between Dire Dawa and Djibouti for several years.

Built by the French in the early 1900s the track is owned by Ethio-Djibouti Railway Company. The line is quite dilapidated and, after the European Commission raised a grant of