New Sh107b Burundi-Tanzania railway secures AfDB financing

The African Development Bank Group (AfDB) has approved financing structures worth $696.41 million (Sh107.23 billion) for Kenya’s neighbours Burundi and Tanzania to commence Phase II of the Joint Tanzania-Burundi-DR Congo Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) Project.

The bank’s financing aims to construct 651 kilometres (km) of the Tanzania-Burundi railway line and connect it with the Dar es Salaam Port.

The project will involve the establishment of a single electrified standard gauge track, which will be divided into three sections: Tabora – Kigoma (411 km) and Uvinza – Malagarasi (156 km) in Tanzania, and the Malagarasi –Musongati section (84 km) in Burundi.

The AfDB said in a statement the standard gauge railway project will be integrated with Tanzania’s existing railway network, providing access to the port of Dar es Salaam.

In total, 400km of rail infrastructure have already been built in Tanzania from Dar es Salaam to Dodoma since the start of the first phase of the project. The rest of the section from Dodoma to Tabora is under construction.

AfDB said the new SGR railway network will transform the Central Transport Corridor into an economic corridor and improve trade and manufacturing opportunities along the project.

Additionally, it will facilitate a shift from road trucking transportation, which is associated with accidents and high road maintenance costs. “The project will also connect and unlock key economic processing zones, industrial parks, Inland Container Depots (ICDs), and population centres along the central corridor, thereby enhancing accessibility and promoting economic activities,” said the bank.

Burundi, a small, landlocked country in East Africa has been relying on both the ports of Dar es Salaam and Mombasa for key imports.

Kenya is meanwhile seeking to secure a deal with China for the completion of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) to Malaba.

But high-level discussions between President William Ruto and China President Xi Jinping in Beijing recently failed to bear such a deal or an extension agreement.

Kenya reckons extending the railway to Malaba will help traders move cargo seamlessly by rail from Mombasa port to landlocked countries. The Mombasa port serves Uganda, Rwanda, the DRC, South Sudan and Burundi as well as northern Tanzania.

Uganda adopted a wait-and-see approach when Kenya built the SGR line from Mombasa to Naivasha at a cost of about Sh327 billion. 

Kenya recently rehabilitated the metre gauge railway line from Naivasha to Malaba border to enhance transport along the corridor. Kenya has in recent weeks also been seeking to boost the competitiveness of the Mombasa port.

Earlier, a new road completed in 2018 linking the port of Mombasa and Burundi was expected to cut distance to the landlocked country by 358 km. The 1,545-km road links the port through Holili, the Singida-Kobero border and finally to Bujumbura.

The road was billed to reduce the distance from Mombasa to Bujumbura through the Northern corridor by 358km and enhance Mombasa Port’s accessibility in the region.

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