China advances plan to build $2.5bn Zimbabwe to Mozambique railway

China Railways has proposed the construction of a $2.5bn rail link between the neighbouring states of Mozambique, Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe. As with the high-speed, east-to-west links in Kenya and Tanzania, the aim will be to give landlocked countries – and the Chinese companies operating there – access to Indian Ocean ports.

According to the website Macauhub, the "Trans-Zambezi" line was discussed by a delegation from China Railways, headed by Vice President Shao Gang, which flew into Harare at the end of last month.

The first phase of the project would consist of a 400km link between Shamva, a town about 100km northeast of Harare, and would head northeast to Moatize in Mozambique. From there, a 900km line is being built to the port of Nacala.

This would take advantage of work already begun on the $5bn Nacala Logistics Corridor, which is being built to transport coal from the Vale company mines to the coast, a project inaugurated in May 2017 by the President of Mozambique (see "further reading" for article on this scheme).

The meeting between China Rail executives and Global Power Bridge International in Harare (GBPI)

The scope of the project would a 1,700km line directly connecting Binga, on Zimbabwean border with Zambia, to Nacala.

China Railways first declared its interest in this project in March this year, in a letter to the Zimbabwean government signed by Gang. This said: "We have been working closely with Global Power Bridge International to establish the foundations of the rail project and we are ready to start it," said Shao.

Global Power Bridge International is a Zimbabwean infrastructure consultant. China Railways’ Number 4 Group subsidiary is already collaborating with Global Power Bridge on the Harare-Chitungwiza light rail scheme.

China Railways is cooperating with China’s New Century Energy International, which has a $500m soybean operation in Zimbabwe.

Image: GE locomotives en route to Vale’s coal mining operation in Mozambique (Rocket Turbo/Creative Commons)

Further reading

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