By Allan Odhiambo | From Business Daily
Kenya and Tanzania are caught in a head-to-head race to become the preferred regional transport hub amid massive expansion projects in sea ports, connecting railway and road networks.
Tanzania on Monday said it plans to spend Sh1.3 trillion ($14.2 billion) to construct a new rail network in the next five years, financed with commercial loans as the country aims to become a regional transport hub.
Tanzania, like its neighbour Kenya, wants to capitalise on a long coastline and upgrade existing rickety railways and roads to serve growing economies in the land-locked heart of Africa.
Oil and gas discoveries in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania have turned the East African region into an exploration hotspot, but transport infrastructure in those countries has suffered from decades of under-investment.
“This will be the single biggest project ever to be implemented by the Tanzanian government since our country’s independence,” Reuters quoted Transport Minister Samuel Sitta as having said in a statement seen on Monday, referring to the year 1961.
The projects include constructing a 2,561 km standard gauge railway connecting the port at the commercial capital of Dar es Salaam to Tanzania’s land-locked neighbours, Rwanda and Burundi at a cost of $7.6 billion (Sh700 billion), Mr Sitta said.
Two additional lines, to be built at a combined cost of $6.6 billion (Sh608 billion), would connect Dar es Salaam to the coal, iron ore and soda ash mining areas in the south and northern parts of the country, he said.
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Tanzania targets to increase the capacity of its main port to 28 million tonnes a year by 2020 from the 14.6 million tonnes it handled in the financial year 2013/14.
The grand infrastructure expansion plans by Tanzania could help revamp the status of the port of Dar es Salaam which eyes to outwit the rival Kenyan port of Mombasa.
The two ports are the main gateways to the East African region and also service markets in South Sudan and the Great Lakes region, handling key items including fuel, consumer goods and other imports as well as exports of tea and coffee from the region.
Kenya is also constructing a Sh327 billion-609 kilometre new standard gauge railway line between Mombasa and Nairobi to boost the movement of cargo from the port and boost the countries competitiveness.
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