China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) has been selected by the Chinese government to enter into concession negotiations for the Tanzania-Zambia Railway Authority (TAZARA).
A communiqué from the Tanzania-Zambia Railway Authority, dated 31st October 2023, has called for a proposal from CCECC, a subsidiary of China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC), to take over the operation of the railway.
The initiative is part of a concerted effort by Tanzania and Zambia to revitalize the key transport link that connects the landlocked Zambia to the Tanzanian port city of Dar es Salaam.
It follows a Joint Steering Committee of Permanent Secretaries on the revitalization of TAZARA with the involvement of the Government of China, held on 25th August 2023, in Dar es Salaam, chaired by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Works and Transport of the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania, Mr. Gabriel Migire, and co-chaired by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Transport and Logistics of the Government of the Republic of Zambia.
The purpose of the meeting was specifically for the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania and the Government of the Republic of Zambia to discuss and agree on a common position regarding the revitalization of TAZARA, with the involvement of the Government of the People’s Republic of China.
The Steering Committee agreed to request the Government of the People’s Republic of China to submit a comprehensive proposal on their envisioned concession of TAZARA to enable the Governments of Tanzania and Zambia to begin discussions and engage with the Chinese investors expeditiously.
In a recent address to the Zambian Parliament, Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan called for swift and decisive reforms of TAZARA to maximize its operational capacity and foster increased trade and cooperation between Tanzania and Zambia.
President Samia highlighted the underutilization of the railway, which has the potential to transport five million metric tonnes of cargo annually but last year only managed to carry 210,000 metric tonnes.
She emphasized the need for both countries to work together to harness the full potential of TAZARA and urged the Zambian Parliament to support the necessary legislative changes, including the Tanzania-Zambia Railway Act.
Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema has also underscored the importance of the railway, advocating for its restoration to enhance the movement of goods and petroleum products.
His commitment to the project was evident during the 59th Independence celebrations, where he emphasized the urgent need to restore the TAZARA corridor.
The railway, constructed with Chinese assistance in the 1970s, is set to be upgraded, including a transition to standard gauge, to improve its operational capacity and efficiency.
Despite its design capacity to transport five million metric tonnes of cargo annually, TAZARA has been operating below potential, with recent figures indicating a cargo movement of 244,492 tonnes in the 2021/23 period.
The revitalization of TAZARA is expected to significantly boost its cargo and passenger transport capabilities, which have historically peaked at 564,000 passengers annually against a capacity of three million.
TAZARA is the entity in charge of operating the Tanzania-Zambia railway since its inception in 1975 by a bilateral agreement signed between both countries under the TAZARA Act 1975.
China funded the project mainly to provide an alternative route from Zambia to Dar es Salaam to export its copper.
China also provided the necessary technical support, expertise, equipment, and related infrastructure to make it viable.
In the 1990s, the economic performance of the railway began to decline and continued deteriorating over the next 20 years. However, after 2010 China has been helping TAZARA to revive its operations.
Still, TAZARA infrastructure cannot currently meet today’s development demand.