Tanzania is beaming with hope that cargo transportation within the country and to neighbouring nations will be cheaper by 2027 once it completes construction of the standard gauge railway (SGR) after two Chinese firms inked a deal to construct the final phase of the rail.
The firms, China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) and China Railway Construction Company (CRCC), will build the final 506km section to complete the railroad linking the Dar es Salaam port to landlocked neighbours Burundi and DR Congo.
“Upon completion of the SGR, Tanzania will be in a better position to utilise its strategic geographical positioning to facilitate cross-border trade,” President Samia Suluhu told a gathering in Dar es Salaam on Wednesday, following the deal-signing ceremony.
President Samia defended the project, given mounting criticism over too much debt, arguing “today’s pain for Tanzanians will be tomorrow’s long-term gain”.
“We have to borrow for this important infrastructure and other sustainable development projects because we don’t have enough local resources,” she said.
President Samia said Tanzania’s investment in the SGR had now reached TSh24 trillion ($10.04 billion) including the latest contract.
She said the new railway would reduce cargo transportation costs between the Dar es Salaam port and the DRC from a minimum of $6,000 per tonne to about $4,000 once it's fully operational. Transportation time would fall from 30 days by truck to 30 hours.
The SGR is a 2,561km network meant to link the Port of Dar es Salaam to Mwanza on Lake Victoria, with eventual flows into Burundi, the DRC, Rwanda and Uganda.
The 506km final section runs from Tabora to Kigoma and is expected to be completed in 2026, nine years after the SGR project was launched.
Last month, President Samia became the first African head of state to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing. China would later announce resumption of Belt and Road Initiative ties with Tanzania and elevated ties with Dar to strategic partnerships. Kenya and Ethiopia are the other countries in the region that enjoy this level of ties with the Chinese.
The two Chinese companies will now work on a total of 754km of the SGR line including the 248km fifth phase from Isaka to Mwanza they were awarded earlier in July this year, covering a stretch of.
Other phases that cover 1,275km are currently being constructed by Turkish firm Yapi Merkezi in partnership with Portuguese firm Mota-Engil Africa.
The main line that links Dar es Salaam to Mwanza could be the longest in Africa, yet.
Tanzania had been relying on an old metre-gauge railroad that forms two existing networks, one linking to Zambia and the other to Kenya and Uganda.
Tanzania Railway Corporation executive director Masanja Kadogosa told The EastAfrican that phase one construction from Dar es Salaam to Morogoro has reached 97.67 per cent with other phases such as Morogoro-Makutupora at 91.32, Makutupora-Tabora (3.26), Tabora-Isaka (0.49) and Isaka-Mwanza at 19.70 per cent
Some 17 locomotives are expected in the country from June next year and 1,430 cargo wagons from China will be available from September 2023, all costing $ 557.7 million.