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Tanzania’s transport minister, Isack Aloyce Kamwelwe, speaking at the East and Central Africa Roads and Rail Infrastructure Summit in Dar es Salaam last October, detailed how much rail track the country is building. He projected maps and graphics as he described the routes of future lines, the stations, the tonnes of cement and ballast. He focused on the 700km of electrified line from Dar es Salaam west towards the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Then he went on to 400km of track that will link his country to Rwanda; this was approved in February 2018, though the $8bn funding is still lacking.
About 50 investors, researchers, entrepreneurs and political decision makers from Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia and the DRC were present. There were also entrepreneurs and company representatives from Turkey, China, Israel, Belgium, Korea, Japan and Germany, and an EU representative. The conference was organised by Magenta Global, a Hong Kong-based events company.
In Tanzania, and throughout Africa, rail is being reborn after losing ground to road transport. East Africa attracts attention because of its geographical advantages, and its ease of access to the Arabian peninsula, and, by sea, to Asia. The vast mineral wealth of the DRC — a huge, landlocked country at the heart of the continent — is transported to the sea, mainly destined for major eastern powers, especially China. The ports of Mombasa (Kenya), Durban (South Africa) and Dar es Salaam are at close to full capacity. New ports are being built (Lamu in Kenya) or planned (Bagamoyo, north of Dar es Salaam). ‘The demand for freight transport has exploded since 2015,’ said Bruno Ching’andu, managing director of the Tanzania-Zambia Railway Authority (Tazara). ‘Traffic from Kisangani and Kasai Province, in the DRC, is up by 18%.’
With rising commodity prices, the market for raw materials has boomed since the early 2000s, even if there was a marked slowdown last year.
This article first appeared on mondediplo.com
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