South African railway operator COMAZAR is to take over the running of the Ethiopia-Djibouti railway. According to a report in the on-line version of Ethiopias independent business weekly Capital the joint Ethiopia and Djibouti-owned Ethio-Djibouti Railway Company will transfer the administration of the 800-km railroad linking Addis Ababa and the port of Djibouti to the private South African concessionaire for 25 years. The move is part of a major project financed by the European Union to upgrade the line. In a related move, the weekly also reports that over 600 ralway employees of whom around 250 at the Addis Ababa branch have been laid off ahead of the transfer.
Built by the French in the early 1900s, today the railway provides a poor but important service for landlocked Ethiopia particularly in light of the ongoing border crisis with Eritrea. Founded in 1995, COMAZAR operates in numerous African countries including Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Mozambique.