As the year comes to an end, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Addis Ababa last week to cement Ethiopia-China strategic partnerships for 2019 and pave way for continued bilateral relations in 2020.
Wang described his visit as a “vivid manifestation of the historic Ethiopia-China strategic partnership,” noting that 2019 marked a landmark year for both nations, according to a report by Chinese media Xinhua.
During his meeting with the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in Addis Ababa, Wang said: “Beijing’s friendship with Addis Ababa has withstood the tests of unstable international situations and is unbreakable.”
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed described the visit as a “testimony to the point that China is a true friend of Ethiopian and African people.”
Sino-Ethiopia relations achieved great socio-economic and diplomatic milestones in 2019, as typical of Beijing’s growing influence in Africa’s bilateral relations in the last decade. However, 2019 will be remembered by many Ethiopians for China’s role in launching Ethiopia’s maiden satellite into space at the near close of the year.
On 20 December, Ethiopia’s first satellite, dubbed ETRSS-1, was successfully launched into space from Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in China, spurring nation-wide jubilation for a moment of pride in the East African nation’s history.
The satellite was developed by 21 Ethiopian engineers in collaboration with the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) – the prime contractor – and the Chinese government who provided USD 6 million in funding for the project and supported the training of Ethiopians as a part of technology transfer aid to the East African nation.
Responding to questions from the Chinese media, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang said funding Ethiopia’s ETRSS-1 satellite is embodied in Beijing’s “fruitful cooperation” of which space and aviation are emerging and important areas.
“In September 2018, the FOCAC Beijing Action Plan (2019-2021) was adopted at the FOCAC Beijing Summit. In this document, it is stated that China will continue to provide meteorological and remote-sensing application equipment, education and training support for African countries, to better equip African countries for disaster prevention and mitigation as well as climate change response,” Shuang said. “The satellite launched for Ethiopia is a project under China’s climate change South-South cooperation aimed to help Ethiopia with research in climate change response and agriculture and boost economic and social progress.”
Ethiopian Ambassador to China Teshome Toga Chanaka recently hinted on the maturity of Sino-Ethiopian ties, emphasizing on the growth of positive people-to-people relationships.
“Ethiopia and China are eager to share the texture of their common destinies, and are forging an even stronger bond of friendship,” an Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement issued on Friday quoted Chanaka as saying.
2020 will leave a trail of developments in Sino-Ethiopia relations as the year marks the 50th anniversary since the establishment of bilateral relations between Beijing and Addis Ababa.
Joseph Ibeh is a Mandela Washington Fellow and Senior Analyst at Space in Africa. His experience spans industry research and market analysis with a focus on African-grown NewSpace companies, commercial space industry, national space programmes and real-life application of space science for sustainable development in Africa.