China’s Belt and Road Initiative in Africa, Debt Risk and New Dependency: The Case of Ethiopia


  • István Tarrósy


 Acknowledging a growing new concern about China  across the Global North in general, and in the U.S. in particular, in the context of China–Africa relations, the article examines Ethiopia as a case study to understand the multi-faceted relationship. Based on field research in 2018-20, together with local media reports, it looks at some of the recent large-scale infrastructure projects in Ethiopia built by Chinese companies, in particular the Light Railway in Addis Ababa and the Ethiopia–Djibouti Railway. These will be analyzed in the context of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) of China. Although the expansion of badly needed modern infrastructure, and thus enhanced connectivity, is welcomed by society at large, the following research questions are raised: (1) How difficult will the repayment of loans be for Ethiopia? (2) Is China offering a worse scenario than the Western practice? At the same time, what is the alternative to these Chinese loans for African governments at present? (3) What are the costs and benefits for both sides? In the process of measurable growing indebtedness—this time to China—the article will shed light on some new dependencies in the making.