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China proposes $1bn revamp of Tanzania-Zambia railway

A Tazara train crossing a bridge near the Zambian-Zimbabwean border (Richard Stupart/CC BY 2.0 Deed)
China has offered to spend more than $1bn modernising the famous Tazara railway that links the port of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania to Zambia’s copper belt, Bloomberg reports

The 1,860-km-long railway was built between 1970 and 1975, paid for with an interest-free loan from China. 

It has since fallen into disrepair, and operates at a fraction of its design capacity. 

The proposal was delivered to Frank Tayali, Zambia’s transport minister, by Du Xiaohui, China’s ambassador to Zambia. No time frame for the investment was given.

The interest in revamping it comes as US companies are proposing another railway to link Zambia with Angolo and Lobito port (see further reading).

It was announced in December that China Civil & Engineering and Construction would examine the engineering and economic cases for revitalising the railway, which is operated by the binational Tazara agency. 

The plan includes future investment from China Development Bank, and proposals for local taxation policies.

According to Tazara, the Chinese proposition will be examined by the Tanzania-Zambia Joint Technical Committee, followed by evaluation from the Tanzania-Zambia Steering Committee and, ultimately, the refined proposal will be presented to the Tripartite Working Group, which includes ministers from the governments of Tanzania and Zambia, as well as China’s Ambassadors to Tanzania and Zambia.

The Tanzanian and Zambian governments decided to hand the concession to run Tazara — as the railroad is known — on a commercial basis to a Chinese state-owned company. A team from China Civil and Engineering Construction Corp. visited the two African nations to study the line ahead of submitting the proposal. 

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