China Designated China Railway for TAZARA Talks

In a communique issued on 31 October 2023, China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC) announced that it shall negotiate a #BOT concession agreement with Tanzania and Zambia to operate the Tanzania-Zambia Railway (#TAZARA).

“The Board noted that China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), a subsidiary of China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC), had been officially introduced by the Government of the People‚Äôs Republic of China as the company to negotiate with on the concession of TAZARA.”

Extract from Communique

Professor Godius Kahyarara, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Transport of Tanzania, underscored that Tanzania is willing to invest heavily in TAZARA in order to position Tanzania as the gateway to Eastern and Central Africa. Indeed, TAZARA links the seaport of Dar es Salaam with the Copperbelt region in Zambia, and can eventually be extended to connect with the mineral-rich province of Katanga in DR Congo.

“We want our country to be the gateway to many nations. Very soon, we will surprise the world with what we want to do, and that will be a good opportunity for us due to our geographical location.”

Tanzanian Ministry of Transport PS Godius Kahyarara

According to the proposed plan, the 1,860-km cross-border railway will be upgrade from 1,067-mm gauge to standard gauge. The state actors envisage a Public-Private Partnership model for the project.

In addition to Zambia, the DR Congo performs significant trade via Tanzania. During FY 2022-2023, TAZARA transported 233,492 tonnes of cargo compared to 210,161 tonnes in the preceding financial year, representing a 16.3 percent increase year-on-year.

Connecting Benguela and Tazara?

During Zambian President Hichilema official visit to China in September 2023, the topic of TAZARA was ‘front, right and center’ during the talks. However, during the 3rd Belt and Road Forum, China indicate that the 3BRI will now focus on ‘small but smart projects of high-quality’. Back in the days, the construction of TAZARA was principally motivated by anti-colonialism and anti-imperialism sentiments.

It is also worth noting that during the Global Gateway (#GG) Forum held in Brussels in October 2023, the EU and USA and other partners agreed to proceed with the building the #LobitoCorridor to connect the same resource-rich regions of DR Congo and Zambia to the Atlantic Ocean. Whether these two complementary lines will eventually cooperate or compete will depend on how the big power rivalry evolves.