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China-Eritrea Friendship Builders

By NI YANSHUO

VISIT TO CHINA: In February 2005, Isaias Afwerki, President of Eritrea, visits China and is warmly received by his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao

Eritrea is located on the coast of the Red Sea in East Africa. After declaring independence in 1991, its government is striving hard to restore the country’s economy. Dozens of internationally recognized companies from the Middle East, Europe and Asia-Pacific regions have taken part in the bid for the country’s engineering market. Sichuan Road & Bridge Co. Ltd. (SRBC) from China is a front-runner in the cutthroat race and is now hard at work improving the country’s utility system. In more than a decade, SRBC has realized a turnover of $60 million and created about 3,000 employment opportunities for the local people. The company has been commended by the Eritrean Government many times for its contribution to the economy, with President Isaias Afwerki personally launching some of its projects.

Restoring the levee road

On March 24, 2004, one of the key projects in Eritrea-the Mitsiwa sea wall road, undertaken by SRBC-broke earth. However, the process of resettlement of local residents and demolition of original construction, tasked to local authorities, proved very slow and hindered the construction schedule. It was left to Sun Tiandong, the project manager of the sea wall road, to resolve the logistics problems throughout the construction of a deepwater cofferdam and the timely relocation of residents.

Technical staff from SRBC worked tirelessly to record the ebbs and flows of the tide in Mitsiwa Bay, information that is essential to cofferdam construction.

Due to an average temperature of 40 degrees centigrade in Mitsiwa, locals only work for five hours a day. To keep to schedule, Chinese staff from SRBC usually worked up to 17 hours, ensuring that the project was finished by May 20, 2006.

The dedication of the Chinese workers was highly praised by the local government and Mitisiwa locals, prompting Minister of Construction Abraha Asfaha to comment that he could now see the reason why China’s economy was booming.

Road construction

CHINESE EXPERTISE: Workers from Sichuan Road & Bridge Co. Ltd. are busy at the building of the Yichang Bridge over China’s Yangtze River. The company also gets to work with the reconstruction in Eritrea

The GL road is situated in the desert area of northwest Eritrea and measures 69.7 km. During peak construction, 58 Chinese engineers and technicians and over 830 Eritreans were involved in the project.

After SRBC won the bid to construct the road, work began in March 1998, but was interrupted twice by the border conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia. In June 2005, the road was finally completed. Huang Yong’an, then Chinese Ambassador to Eritrea, heaped high praise on SRBC, calling the company a “Chinese goodwill envoy to Eritrea.”

During his visit to Eritrea, Sun Yun, President of SRBC, was warmly greeted by President Isaias Afwerki, who said he welcomes more Chinese companies like SRBC to assist in the economic construction of his country.

Public welfare

Massawa, known as a “pearl in the Red Sea,” is the most important port in Eritrea. After independence, Massawa’s liberation date was officially recognized as the second largest festival in Eritrea. In early February each year SRBC has been active in helping the city prepare for the festival as well as financing the bicycle race, football games and festive parade.

Before Eritrea’s Independence Day in 2004, SRBC installed two big square lamps in the center of the Asmara, which added color to the capital city’s celebration.

In 2004, a major sewage conduit in Asmara was damaged due to heavy rain. The rainwater, mixed with sewage, needed to be prevented from entering the capital’s reservoir where it would endanger the health of residents. After receiving an SOS call from the Eritrean Government, SRBC immediately sent heavy machinery and personnel to the site. After working in harsh conditions in heavy rain, the conduit was repaired and sewage was averted from pouring into the reservoir. The residents of Asmara were deeply touched by the efforts of the Chinese.