Years ago, the governments of Addis Ababa, Nairobi and Dodoma pitched Beijing about rail corridors to tie together the region’s economies with new standard gauge railways (SGRs). But after the profitability of the Kenyan line raised questions about the viability of connections farther inland, governments are working on other ways to raise the share of freight transported over rail, which has dropped from 70%-80% in the 1970s to 5% in 2019.
Since the 1970s, infrastructure maintenance challenges and poor institutional frameworks almost drove rail transport into obsolescence. Following the 2009 East Africa Rail Sector Master Plan and a continued economic boom in the region, upgrades and restorations of various lines, new financing mechanisms and evolving regional trade are to a railway renaissance in the region.
The state of play
Rail transport is the second most important mode of freight
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