Angola floats plan to build trans-Africa rail link to Tanzania

Plans to build a trans-African railway between the ports of Dar es Salaam in the east of the continent and Lobito in the west have been proposed by Sandri De Oliveira, Angola’s ambassador to Tanzania.

De Oliveira was speaking in Dar at an event to mark the 45th anniversary of Angola’s independence from Portugal.

He said the railway corridor would connect the two countries through Zambia, allowing for the transit of goods from markets in America, Asia and Europe.

The project would involve building a narrow-gauge (1,067mm) railway between Lobito in Angola to the Zambian border. The line would then be extended through Zambia as far as the central town of Kapiri Mposhi.

This is the western terminus of the Tazara rail line, built by the Chinese in the 1970s.

The ambassador commented: "In order to have the railway link with Tanzania, the Angolan government would construct a new railway line into Zambia that would further link to the 1,860 km Tanzania-Zambia Railway."

He added that Angola was counting on "Tanzania’s collaboration in this effort".

At present, Angola’s economy depends overwhelmingly on exports to China – in 2018 these accounted for more than $25bn, more than its exports to the rest of the world combined, and consisted mainly of oil.

There is almost no trade between Angola and Tanzania. In 2015, Tanzania exported less than $5m to Angola, and Angola less than $500,000 worth of goods to Tanzania.

The lack of commercial contact is partly due to the difficulties in overland transport by road, especially in Zambia, during the rainy season. A rail link would provide each country with access to each other’s markets, as well as improved access to global buyers.

Angola, which has a per capita income around three times greater than Tanzania and more than double that of Zambia, would be likely to shoulder most of the work in organising the link.

Image: The railway would connect the Tazara line with Angola (Digr/CC BY-SA 3.0)

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  1. Would it be possible to pick up off the Tsavo railroad; such iconic feat in the face of adversity. Seems like such a waste of life and resources leaving it unused.

    Africa has been carved many times and all the necessary infrastructure has already been built.

    Not only would it be cheaper and more cost effective researching further into other abandoned railroads that will suffice as the new modern transport system.

  2. There is already a railway from Lobito to Dar es Salaam via Congo (RDC). Having worked in Zambia’s Northwestern province, I think it would be great to have a railway through it, but this is my fear: it would be a hugely costly project involving massive borrowing abroad; without honest appraisment of it’s economic viability, is this not just another threat to the independence of Zambia. It is a fine country and its people so friendly. I only wish her well.

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