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Tanzania: New rails, old problems

In depth
This article is part of the dossier: Logistics: move it

By Morris Kiruga
Posted on Wednesday, 11 March 2020 12:42

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang gives a speech at a presentation of the new book "A Monument to China-Africa Friendship -- First Account of the Building of the Tazara", at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi gives a speech at a presentation of the new book "A Monument to China-Africa Friendship -- First Account of the Building of the Tazara", at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing, China, July 23, 2015. REUTERS/China Daily

Tanzania’s new railway line will face the same challenges as those in other countries of the region, chief among them, a logistics sector under pressure.

In January 2020, for example, the Board of TAZARA, the body that runs the rail partnership between Tanzania and Zambia, reported a slump in performance on the old line.

TAZARA’s managing director Bruno Ching’andu explained the main problem being the “unreliability and availability of locomotives and wagons”, but also noted hurdles in accessing other markets.

READ MORE Tanzania: the race for regional rail supremacy

He said the drop was also a result of new customs clearance procedures in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which became operational after the new government, under President Félix Tshisekedi, came to power.

While Tanzania is still investing in its old rail network – it plans to buy several locomotives and lease others – the new line will have to compete with the old one for cargo traffic.

Even though they do not cover the same route, freighters could find ways to take advantage of the new line’s promise of speed and efficiency, especially as it opens up new business opportunities.

As part of Tanzania’s larger plans, it is reviewing the law that marries it to Zambia in order to allow private investments.

These could see the rail network extended from Dar es Salaam to South Africa, serving the Southern Africa Development Community.

The most likely financier is Beijing, which built the existing Dar to Kapiri-Mposhi line in 1976.

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