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If you have been to Dar es Salaam lately, you must have noticed the striking pillars under construction that will carry Tanzania’s new railway over the 154-year-old coastal city.
The former capital of East Africa’s most populous country is the launch point of a 1,457km railway line that will, if everything goes according to plan, connect Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo to the coast line.
Tanzania entered this side of the logistics infrastructure race a bit later than her neighbours, Kenya and Ethiopia. Both Nairobi and Addis Abbaba are now connected to coastlines by Chinese-built standard gauge railways (SGRs).
While plans for new railway infrastructure in the region go back decades, Dodoma chose to pause and watch her neighbours, as a Kenyan financial journalist wrote in The Standard: “the way a second-born child would do, lurking in the shadows and learning from the mistakes of his elder brother, then retreating to plot how to do a better job when his turn came.”
Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta commissioned the country’s SGR passenger services in mid-2017, followed by its cargo services six months later. The first phase connected the coastal city of Mombasa with the capital, Nairobi, and ran along the older, British-built railway.
The second phase, dubbed “Phase 2A” and launched in late 2019, connects Nairobi to Suswa, an uninhabited expanse of land in the country’s Great Rift Valley. It cost KSh150bn ($1.5bn) and was funded by China, which withheld funding for the rest of the line earlier this year.
Ethiopia had commissioned its 756km railway, which ends in neighbouring Djibouti, in October 2016. These projects were part of a regional master plan, signed in 2008, to build new railways and logistics infrastructure within the next decade.
This article first appeared on www.theafricareport.com
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