RAILROADS TO THE FUTURE: Tanzania – Burundi-DRC
by PD Lawton , 5 November 2022
“Africa is one continent, one people, and one nation. The notion that in order to have a nation it is necessary for there to be a common language, a common territory and common culture has failed to stand the test of time or the scrutiny of scientific definition of objective reality… The community of economic life is the major feature within a nation, and it is the economy which holds together the people living in a territory. It is on this basis that the new Africans recognize themselves as potentially one nation, whose dominion is the entire African continent” – Kwame Nkrumah
“It is clear that we must find an African solution to our problems, and that this can only be found in African unity. Divided we are weak; united, Africa could become one of the greatest forces for good in the world.”-Kwame Nkrumah
Image : AIHSRN
The African Integrated High-Speed Railway Network (AIHSRN),was approved by the African Union in 2014. The high speed rail network includes 6 East – West corridors and 3 North – South corridors. This plan will revolutionize life on the continent. It will mean that for the first time in history, a traveler can go on an electified modern train from Point Noire in the Republic of Congo on the Atlantic Coast, due East to Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania on the Indian Ocean. Or indeed, from Dakar in Senegal due East to Asmara in Eritrea. Or a traveler can go from Tripoli in Libya due South to Luanda in Angola and then on to Cape Town, South Africa.
The railway project includes more than modern electrified railways, it includes the building of supporting infrastructure, new bridges, roads and ports which are all needed to complete the transformation of transport throughout the continent. These new bridges, roads and ports are hugely beneficial in their own right for the economy, for access to healthcare and educational facilities, for life in general but put together with a modern integrated railway network, it is a leap frog for all of Africa into a new economic league. Transport of goods and travel costs have always been excessively high compared to European costs. With the recent increase in fuel prices, the cost of living is becoming extreme resulting in greater food insecurity and slower development progress. Modernized railway networks reduce prices through speed and efficiency. In Tanzania, the SGR is expected to reduce transport costs by 40% and travel time by 300%.
The African Integrated High Speed Railway Network will connect people, nations, and economies and bring qualitative changes to the entire continent.
TANZANIA AND THE EAST AFRICA MASTER RAILWAY PLAN
The late president Dr John Pombe Magufuli initiated the Tanzanian SGR project in April 2017.
Tanzania is part of the AIHSRN Central Corridor in East Africa that will link across the continent to the Atlantic Ocean. The project will link east to west and create efficient transport corridors to the landlocked countries of the Great Lakes region.
The line from Dar Es Salaam to Morogoro, 207km, is completed. The travel time will be cut by 50%. It will take 1.5hrs instead of 3hrs. The line to Makutupora is more than 91% complete and will be operational by February 2023. Source:
A Turkish railway engineering and construction company, Yapi Merkezi, are constructing the greater portion of the Tanzanian railway, with Portuguese Mota- Engil and China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation also involved on various sections. The standard gauge line will go from Dar Es Salaam to the DRC forming part of what is the Central Corridor which will ultimately link Dar Es Salaam in the East on the Indian Ocean, to Point Noire, Republic of Congo in the West and the Atlantic Ocean. The line will go from Bukavu in eastern DRC to Kinshasa, capital of DRC, passing through Mbuji-Mayi and Tshikapa.
The project to Rwanda and Burundi is divided into 5 phases : 300km Phase 1 Dar Es Salaam–Morogoro. Phase 2 – 426km Morogoro–Makutupora. Phase 3- 435km Makutopora–Isaka. Phase 4 -220km Isaka–Mwanza and Phase 5 -371km Isaka–Rusumo.
Phase 1 was projected to take 30 months and is now completed. A total of 33 million cubic meters of excavation work was undertaken and construction included 96 pieces of 6,500 meter-long bridge and overpasses, 460 culverts and 6 stations.
Phase 2 is now underway; it too will have a speed of 160km/hr. The line, 426km, will go from Morogoro -Makutupora which will connect Dar Es Salaam to Mwanza. The estimated time is 36 months. Makutupora is just north of Dodoma, Tanzania`s geographically central and official capital. Once the line is completed to Dodoma it will be halfway to Rwanda. The line from Dar Es Salaam to Dodoma will be the region`s first inter-city electrified railway.
From Dodoma the line will go to Mwanza which is Tanzania`s second largest city. It is a major inland port and industrial hub on the shores of Lake Victoria. Mwanza connects by water to Kisumu in Kenya and Port Bell in Uganda. Lake Victoria borders Uganda and Kenya. The lake is 59,947 km2 making it the largest in Africa by area and the world`s largest tropical lake and second largest fresh water lake. Mwanza is geographically very significant making high speed rail access to it very important.
CONNECTING THE GREAT LAKES REGION TO THE COASTS
Isaka is a dry inland port along the highway that connects Mombasa in Kenya to Dar Es Salaam via Mwanza. It is a customs point and cargo holding area that serves goods transport from Rwanda, Burundi and DRC. At present it takes trucks 6 to 7 days to get from Dar Es Salaam to Kigali. The cost of transportation before the outbreak of Covid was US$ 3,200 per truck. Transport by rail will dramatically reduce transport time and cost by 40%. Each freight train will be able to transport 10,000 tonnes, equivalent to 500 lorry-loads.
Tanzania holds an excellent record on construction of its part of the AIHSRN. The Tanzania Railway Corporation TRC, both its choice of construction company, Turkish firm, Yapi Merkezi, along with the government`s full commitment to the project are setting new standards for east and southern African regions.
Director General of TRC Ms. Amina Lumuli said at the recent October 2022 SARA RAIL Conference and Exhibition:
“The importance of railways in pushing the wheel of development is undeniable, and if this means of transport is not improved, Africa will not be able to see the importance of railways in the effective use of its resources and the wealth we have been blessed with.”
She explained that Tanzania, in focussing on the Standard Gauge Railway was achieving infrastructure reform at a faster pace than others in neighbouring regions:
“Through SGR, compared to other countries in this region, we seem to be further ahead with the construction of this modern infrastructure that will help a lot in reducing travel time and efficiency in operation.” Source: Railway Business Magazine
On 20 August, 2022, governments of Burundi and DRC signed an agreement in Kinshasa for the feasibility studies and financing from the AfDB ( African Development Bank) for the construction of the standard gauge railway section connecting Gitega and Bujumbura in Burundi to Uvira and Kindu in DRC. Source:
His Excellency President Evariste Ndayishimiye at the 77th UNGA said on the government`s investment in development of road, air, water and rail transport networks that the government want to connect all regions and neighbouring countries, especially given as the DRC has recently joined the East Africa Community on the 8 April 2022 :
“Together with the DRC and Tanzania, Burundi is working closely and tirelessly to lend new momentum to the railway project linking Uvinza ,Musongati, Gitega, Bujumbura, Uvira and Kindu. This railway project should link 3 countries and the Atlantic and Indian Ocean. This mega project will not only lend new life to the economies of our 3 countries but will also make it easier for goods and people to move across the sub region. We wish to see the member states of the United Nations rise up and speak with one voice to protect and promote the human rights that all humans should enjoy without exception. We appreciate what has already been done to date but work has yet to be done so that all people can fully enjoy all of the rights they should enjoy by virtue simply of being a human being.”