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Tanzania’s new East African railway closer to reality

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A plan to build a railway linking Tanzania’s port in Dar es Salaam with neighbouring East African landlocked countries such as Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and ultimately the eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo is gaining momentum.

The African Development Bank (AfDB) will hold an investors’ roadshow to attract the estimated $7.6 billion in financing. AfDB will reportedly team up with the World Economic Forum (WEF) to help find investors to bankroll the 2,560­ kilometer line.

Bloomberg Media quotes Gabriel Negatu, AfDB’s regional director for East Africa as saying a meeting is being planned to draw up a list of potential investors.

The planned standard gauge line will run from Dar es Salaam port to Rwanda’s capital, Kigali. Two other lines will branch off to Musongati in Burundi and to Mwanza port on the shores of Lake Victoria to service Ugandan shippers. The line to Kigali is expected to ultimately connect to the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

In July this year (2016) the Tanzanian government claimed China would make the full amount available for the project. “If they finance it completely, no one will be more happier than us,” said Negatu.

Early in September East Africa Business Week reported the Tanzanian government has pinned a rather optimistic three year timeline to the construction of the railway. Quoting Tanzanian Minister of Works, Transport and Communication, Prof Makame Mbarawa, the paper said the planned line will be constructed by three contractors over two phases.

Mbarawa said China’s Exim Bank has already agreed in principle to finance the project, which will start “immediately”. Each contractor will need to complete their part of the construction in 18 months, “or about three years for the two phases”.

The new line will have a speed capacity of between 120 and 150-kilometre per hour. This means the movement of goods and passengers between Dar es Salaam to Mwanza will take less than 12-hours, beating buses that spend more than 16-hours on the same trip.

Tanzania’s economy, East Africa’s largest after Kenya, is expected to grow 7.2 percent during 2016, partly due to investment in roads and power plants, along with upgrades to ports and airports, according to the International Monetary Fund.

The country is Africa’s fifth largest gold producer and has estimated reserves of 58 trillion cubic feet of natural gas being developed for export by companies including Statoil ASA and BG Group Plc.