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  • Ethiopia Regional Powerhouse


    On a rainy afternoon in Addis Ababa’s old Italian district, a flash and a loud bang from the top of an electricity pylon sends pedestrians running in all directions. “Lousy Indian-made transformers,” mutters one passerby, who, like many people, argues that Ethiopia has not got the best ­value for money from its municipal power contractors.

    For decades, Ethiopia has suffered from chronic power shortages. In 1953, the Aba Samuel hydroelectric dam was the only power source in the country, generating just 6MW. That number has slowly risen to 2,300MW today, which is still far short of the amount of electricity Ethiopia needs to provide power for its 95 million people. By comparison, South Africa, the continent’s most industrialised economy, produces more than 250,000MW.

    Ethiopia’s government has long touted the potential of its power sector to facilitate economic growth. It estimates a projected capacity of 60,000MW from hydroelectric, wind, solar and geothermal sources combined. 

    “Ethiopia has very big potential in energy sources,” says Azeb Asnake, chief executive officer of Ethiopian Electric Power, the state-run power utility. “The biggest [is] hydropower. We have 12 river basins in Ethiopia, nine of which are actually now under development,” she says, also noting the strong potential of solar and geothermal production. 

    The country’s ambitious plan to become a middle-income country by 2025, which is estimated to cost $200bn in investment, relies heavily on developing electricity production. The government aims to establish grid links as far north as Europe and as far south as South Africa. “From Ethiopia we [will] try to go to Kenya and through Kenya to go to Tanzania and further to South Africa. And in the north […] we are already connected with Sudan and from Sudan to Egypt and further to Europe,” says Azeb. The government plans to use the money earned from power exports to fund other projects.

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  • The 10 best Ethiopian restaurants in the Washington area


    When Queen of Sheba debuted in 2005, there were no multistory condominiums with dog parks on the roof and sweeping vistas of the Shaw neighborhood. There was no Chaplin’s next door with $14 bowls of ramen and $20 pours of Japanese whiskey. There was no shortage of parking, either.

    But in the 11 years since Nigisti “Queen” Gebreyesus and her husband, Embzam Misgina, open their Ethio­pian restaurant, Shaw has become a developer’s playground, and all the shiny new commercial objects have put a squeeze on the couple’s business. In fact, before I spoke with Gebreyesus, I noticed Queen of Sheba was for sale. But the Queen told me the online listing was premature. The couple had been contemplating a sale but decided to give themselves more time to reverse their fortunes.

    The sound you hear is the $20 Diner exhaling loudly — at least for Queen of Sheba, which, based on two recent meals, is turning out some of the finest Ethio­pian fare anywhere. We don’t need to lose another standard-bearer on the Ethio­pian dining scene. Earlier this month, the owners of Zenebech Restaurant announced they would be selling their property and closing their injera-based business after an 18-year run on T Street NW, located basically next door to the renovated Howard Theatre.

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  • Ethiopia has a lot riding on its new, Chinese-built railroad to the sea


    The sleek, white train glides through the hilly Ethiopian countryside, the first to travel this route in nearly a decade.

    The contrast is stark as the new, Chinese-made electric train passes horse-drawn carriages, oxen hauling plows and crowds of curious village children. But soon it crosses over a gleaming six-lane expressway and snakes past a row of newly erected wind turbines — all Chinese-built and, like the train, part of Ethiopia’s ongoing effort to remake itself.

    The standard-gauge rail line, which will be officially inaugurated this week, stretches 470 miles from the capital, Addis Ababa, to the port of Djibouti, which handles 90 percent of the landlocked country’s trade and is its main window to the outside world. Seventy percent of the $3.4 billion project is financed by China’s Export-Import Bank, and it is one of the biggest of the mega-projects that Ethiopia says will transform its largely agricultural economy — once known for little more than famine and coffee — into East Africa’s manufacturing hub.

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