Xinhua: Chinese energy aid project brings bright classrooms to Ethiopia

ADDIS ABABA, May 15 (Xinhua) -- Ebisa Tashome effused at the news. "We can use computers now!" hailed the grade 9 student at the Abay Silto High School in Ethiopia.

Other bits of electronic equipment that once stood idle in classrooms are now up and functioning. A diesel generator functioning only two hours a day was all the school - located in a mountainous area - used to have for supporting its needs.

But things are different now for some 825 teachers and students thanks to a China-funded power supply project. They now can also do their homework at school in the evening, said Tashome.

The project involved the construction of a 7.5-km-long power line with 120 telegraph poles and a 15-kv electronic transmission line linked with a local electricity substation.

It was completed in less than three months by the China Electric Power Equipment and Technology Co. Ltd. (CET) as part of a pilot energy aid project under the Global Energy Interconnection (GEI) program.

"They have faced a lot of problems but they managed to do it within a very short period of time," said Gossaye Mengistie, CEO of the project's local operator Ethiopian Electric Utility.

The project has generated "a lot of benefits for the rural schools and communities," he added.

"The school will consider introducing projectors and other devices after the teaching area has access to electricity. And teaching will no longer be influenced by weather and other factors," said Ahimed Hamissou, director of the Abay Silto school.

"We have finally got electricity; we are truly grateful that the GEI initiative has brought students not only bright classrooms but also bright futures," Fikadu Bedada, a Abay Silto teacher, said at the project's handover ceremony held in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on Monday.

The ceremony was held during a forum where African and Chinese officials and experts discussed ways of developing clean energy and power interconnection in Africa.

The forum was organized by China's Global Energy Interconnection Development and Cooperation Organization (GEIDCO), which is also the donator of the power supply project that benefits the Abay Silto school, located in the capital's southeast.

Access to reliable and safe power has also been a major issue for the surrounding villages, and the GEI project has helped pave the way for a solution.

At the global level, GEIDCO has been devoted to accelerating the GEI projects within the framework of the 2013 China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, and expanding access to electricity in Africa is at the top of its agenda, said Wan Haibin, head of GEIDCO's development department.

Speaking at the handover ceremony, Seleshi Bekele, Ethiopia's electricity minister, thanked the Chinese government and GEIDCO for the GEI off-grid project with its focus on supporting education facilities, saying it creates opportunities for students.

In his speech, Chinese Ambassador to Ethiopia Tan Jian said the Chinese government has always encouraged Chinese enterprises operating overseas to provide support to marginalized communities.

With the Belt and Road Initiative, Tan noted, China can forge closer ties with Africa and other parts of the world and lift development to new heights where needed.