China Submits Proposal for Tazara Upgrade

In order to compete with the #LobitoCorridor to Atlantic Ocean, China has officially submitted a proposal to revamp the legendary Tanzania-Zambia Rail (#TAZARA). On Wednesday 7 February 2024, Chinese Ambassador in Tanzania DU Xiaohui delivered the plan to Zambian Minister of Transport and Logistics, Frank Tayali.

TAZARA is also known as the Uhuru Railway or Freedom Railway and was a symbol of the South-South Cooperation in the struggle for independence. It connected the Kapiri Mposhi in the Copperbelt region in Zambia to the seaport of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, thus providing an alternative route to export the copper without going through the then Apartheid-based regime in South Africa.

The cost of the upgrade is estimated at USD one billion and will be branded as a flagship #BRI project. The government of China has designated China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) as the prime contractor. CCECC is expected to seal a concession agreement based on a Public-Private Partnership (#PPP) in line with global best practices.

The TAZARA will facilitate access to #CriticalMinerals in Zambia and further up into DR Congo. From the Lobito seaport on the western seaboard, the EU and USA are partnering to finance and rebuild the railway line under the #GGI and #PG2I frameworks as competition to control the #EV Global Value Chain (#GVC) heats up.

This time, the Chinese side has made it abundantly clear that the project is no longer an aid mission, and must be a commercially viable venture. During the state visit of Tanzanian President Samia Hassan in China, the matter was raised and received the nod from Chinese President XI Jinping.

Chinese Ambassador Du Highlights Significance of Re-activating #TAZARA
Chinese Ambassador Du Highlights Significance of Re-activating #TAZARA

In a tweet on X, the US Embassy was quick to add its two-cent to the story by pointing out that even though it was China which built the railway, it was the US that kept it running with some USD 45 million to procure locomotives and rolling stock as well as ‘substantial technical assistance.’

“For Beijing, the recent announcement of Western investments along thee Lobito Corridor has certainly increased the geopolitical incentive to invest and operate TAZARA.”

Beyond the ‘brotherly love’ rhetoric, China needs to maintain control over the access to the #CriticalMinerals which are essential to its plan to dominate the global #EV market.