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$530 Million of New Rail To Connect TAZARA to Lake Tanganyika

Zambia's call for proposals to link Lake Tanganyika to TAZARA by more rail is likely an effort to make the TAZARA railway upgrades the Chinese will start this year economically feasible. Connecting Zambia's existing rail infrastructure to the lake means access to Burundi and more cities in Tanzania and the DRC. Couple this with the support the Americans and Europeans are providing on the Lobito Corridor and quite a year is shaping up for the region in terms of rail upgrades.


Zambia rail way infrastructure

The Zambian government has invited companies to express interest in developing a 192 km (i.e., 120 miles) rail line linking Mpulungu harbor on Lake Tanganyika with the existing TAZARA railway at Nseluka. Construction is expected to begin in 2025, with completion targeted for 2028, and the project is projected to cost $530 million.


New 500 million dollar rail line proposed by Zambia


This vital connection will open up trade pathways with Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Tanzania, all of which share borders with the lake and represent a market of 180 million people. The Tanzania Zambia Railways ("TAZARA") connects Zambia to Tanzania's port city of Dar es Salaam and represents the majority of the 2,700 kilometers (i.e., 1,677 miles) of rail infrastructure currently in Zambia


The TAZARA railway, a 1,860-kilometer behemoth built by China in the 1970s, was at that time arguably the largest and most expensive railroad ever laid in Africa. The communist nation under Mao supplied interest-free loans and deployed around 50,000 mostly Chinese workers to complete to project. Over time, the rail has not been properly maintained due to lack of financing. Capacity has been reduced to a mere 2.5 million tons per year, a fraction of its designed 15 million.


Fast forward to today, and a Chinese contractor is set to soon inject capital and expertise to commence revitalization works on the TAZARA line. If all goes as planned, the works will wrap up by 2027 and result in a tripling of capacity permitting 7.5 million tons of copper to be transported annually, generating an estimated $1.2 billion in revenues for Zambia and Tanzania.


TAZARA connects to the Lobito Corridor's Bengula Railway which snakes through Zambia's Copperbelt, through mineral-rich portions of the DRC, and Angola to the port of Lobito. The Lobito Corridor, as it's called, has received strong financial support from Washington DC and the EU, and the concession is managed by a JV led by Swiss-based Trafigura. No doubt that the Chinese are being spurred to action here to counter the Americans who wish to provide an alternative for energy transition minerals for westward deliveries to the Atlantic Ocean.

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