Last week, Tanzania signed a Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) agreement that is set to give landlocked Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) direct access to Dar es Salaam Port. 

The deal signing took place in the port town of Kigoma between Tanzania’s Minister of Transport Isack Kamwelwe, and his counterparts Jean Bosco (Burundi) and Roger Biasu (DRC).

A feasibility study for the railway which will start from Uvinza in Tanzania to Musongati in Burundi was done by Gulf Engineering Ltd. Upon completion, Tanzania’s SGR line will stretch for 1,457 km from Dar es Salaam to the shores of the popular Lake Victoria.

“The two countries have expressed their optimism and commitment in supporting the SGR project, as both depend largely on Dar es Salaam Port for exports and imports,” said Kamwelwe.  He also added that once completed, the SGR line will spur economic growth in the three countries by easing transportation of goods to Burundi and DRC. 

With the goal to boost Tanzania’s primary transport channel, tenders for the project will be floated in 2020 as China, Eastern and Southern African Trade and Development Bank (TDB) already expressing potential interest in financing the project. 

Kenya was the first Eastern African country to announce an SGR line which promised a cheaper and more efficient means of connecting all landlocked nations in East Africa through the Mombasa port. However, the project has been put on hold as China refusing to finance the project argued that it is not economically viable.

Nevertheless, the first phase of Tanzania’s SGR construction will start from the Uvinza district in northwestern Tanzania to Gitega in Burundi, covering a stretch of 240km. Also, the railway will be extended to the eastern regions of DRC. 

One major benefit of Tanzania’s SGR is the promotion of economic integration which creates better trading opportunities for locals in Burundi and DRC. Subsequently, economic growth is inevitable in both countries as the SGR will bring about the transfer of new skills and technologies, also increasing overall productivity in the nation’s economies. 

Similarly, Tanzania’s SGR gives the opportunity for more investment into the countries as foreign investors will leverage on the smooth transition between the East African Countries and invest in different aspects of their economies. 

The high cost of transportation coupled with the time spent during the journey between these landlocked countries to Tanzania will be greatly reduced following the execution of the SGR. 

Also, the deal is set to create more jobs for East Africans especially Tanzanians during the course of the construction, likewise at the end when the railway becomes fully operational. 

Following the success of Tanzania’s SGR between Burundi and DRC, there would be an increase in foreign investment, a more economical means of transportation, and an avenue for job creation in the region.  

By Treasure Nnabugwu.

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