Kenya Rolls out Plan to Connect SGR to Uganda, Congo, DRC.

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  • The Standard Gauge Railway is intended to assist countries to compete for freight commerce from the Indian Ocean.

In what appears to be an effort with Tanzania to dominate shipping into Africa’s hinterland, Kenya has begun discussions with Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Republic of the Congo to construct a modern railway connecting the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic.

 

According to President William Ruto, the discussion centers on having each nation construct a 1,000-kilometer line within its borders. Kenya’s leader said Nairobi is in talks with Kinshasa about securing funds for its sector. At the same time, Uganda has made headway in establishing the foundation for the new railway network on its territory.

 

This comes months after Tanzania agreed to extend its standard gauge railway to Burundi, from where it will connect to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the continent’s second-largest nation by land with a population of about 120 million.

During a forum meeting of government and private sector leaders on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in Nairobi on Monday, Dr. Ruto said “As countries, we are prepared to work together. That way, we can do our section in Kenya with Uganda are already working on their section”.

“We are also discussing with the government of DRC to see how, together, we can get the resources to get their 1,000km in DRC, connect it to the Congo River, and transport our goods and products across the hinterland of Africa”, he said. He claimed that Congo-Brazzaville had been included in the discussions.

 

Between Mombasa and Suswa near Naivasha, Kenya has over 700 km of SGR line that the Chinese constructed at an estimated cost of $3.75 billion (or Sh519 billion at the time, based on the currency rate at the time).

The modern rail route from Nairobi was initially meant to extend up to the Ugandan border at Malaba town, but China requested that Kampala agree to build its portion before Beijing releases financing for the complete phase.

 

Uganda announced earlier this month that it had received funding for the SGR line from the Standard Chartered Bank, with an unknown Turkish business scheduled to carry out the project’s construction.

According to Fred Byamukama, Uganda’s Minister for Work, quoted by press in Kampala earlier in the month, “What I want to assure you is that come August, you will see the construction of Standard Gauge Railway on our Land”. 

 

Kenya and Tanzania’s plans for modern train lines are intended to assist countries compete for freight commerce from the Indian Ocean into the interior when nations are considering lowering trade barriers under the ambitious African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).

The creation of the largest single market in the world, with a population of around 1.4 billion and an estimated $3 trillion (Sh415.2 trillion) in annual economic activity, will be made possible by the AfCFTA, which will provide the free movement of people, goods, and services throughout the continent.

 

Last month Tanzania and Burundi filed a tender for designing and constructing roughly 282km of the longer cross-border modern railway line, which is meant to travel through the populated DRC.

According to a $2.2 billion (Sh271 billion) contract, Dar es Salaam inked with two Chinese contractors late last December, the 2,102 km SGR’s last section will be completed by 2026.

“This is a railway that is going to open up Tanzania and link it to the eastern side of DRC where there is a lot of cargo that needs to be transported on the ports on the Indian Ocean to the global market,” Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan said at the time.

 

The vast and populated DRC presents a tremendous untapped opportunity for access to one of the few remaining economic frontier markets in the world.

The war-torn nation is endowed with tremendous natural resources, including the second-biggest rainforest in the world, the world’s largest cobalt and copper deposits, hydroelectric potential, major arable land, and great biodiversity.

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