Africa modernizes its large freight lines

mercancias africa
mercancias africa

One of the priorities is to make the railway a strong player in the transport of raw materials and minerals. for this end, the governments are preparing multi-millon investments.

Africa, with a total surface area of 30,272,922 km2, is the third continent by its extensive nature, after Asia and America. Its vast territory is divided into 54 countries, however, its population of one billion inhabitants, is less than 15% of the world total. Communications are essential for trade exchange, exports and the transport of raw materials and minerals from their extraction areas. At present, one of the priorities is to make the railway a strong player of these strategic links, and that is why many governments have approved transport plans of great investment. The idea is to have better networks, with greater capacity and with more modern systems. This represents a much needed infrastructure update work so that some freight lines that, in many cases, are too old to operate may be redesigned.

In West Africa, initiatives such as doubling over 2500 kilometers of track are a step towards modernizing its rail links. The Ghana and Senegal projects are also taken into consideration. To the South, countries such as Botswana and Namibia, Zambia and Tanzania, Mozambique, Swaziland and Zimbabwe work together to achieve more efficient international freight links. In the central area, Gabon works on the rehabilitation of the Trans- Gabonese line; while the Central African Republic aims to give an impetus to transport corridors and Cameroon and Chad cooperate in improving links such as the Yaoundé-Kousseri line. In addition to these, there are projects such as those in North Africa and Sudan, among others. This set of projects highlights the multimillion inves- tments that allocated in the coming years to the freight transport across the continent.

West Africa

Nigeria: Lagos- Ibadan Track DuplicationIn March 2017, CCECC Nigeria Ltd., a sub- sidiary of China Railway Construction Corp., started the 2,733-kilometer track duplication project in Nigeria, aimed at modernizing the networks from the country’s largest port, in Lagos, to the City of Ibadan, in the Southwest. The works have been divided into six phases and, once renewed, the stan- dard gauge line (1,435 mm) will be used to transport freight and passengers. The trains will reach speeds of up to 150 kilometers per hour. The route will run between Lagos, Ibadan, Ilorin, Minna, Kano. There will also be a link between Minna and Abuja.

Ghana: Tema- Akosombo line. In January 2017, works officially began on the extension of the Tema port, which will quadruple the current size and will make it one of the most important lines in terms of capacity from the entire Africa. The project includes the design and construction of four stations, two terminals with associated operational infrastructure and equipment. To reinforce the growing demand, projects such as a multimodal line, of 84.8 kilometers, that will link this port to that of Akosombo, will also be carried out. This initiative is supported by Banco de Exportación e Importación of India with which the authorities of Ghana signed an agreement in the amount of 398.3 million US dollars (M €).

Senegal: Dakar Regional Express Train (TER). The Senegal investment promotion agency, APIX, awarded the French companies called Thales and Engie the contract for the design and construction of the regional express train, called “Dakar Regional Express Train”. The branch will have three passenger routes and one freight route, of a metric gauge. This is a 55-kilometer line starting from Dakar that will link the city to the new international airport of Blaise Diagné. The project will be carried out in two phases: Dakar-Diamniadio (36 kilome- ters) and Diamniadio-airport (19 kilometers). It is estimated to enter into commercial operation in 2018.

North Africa

Sudan: Khartoum-El Obied Link. Among the improvements in terms of transport, the authorities are studying a new railway line that would run in parallel to the current Khartoum-El Obied branch. This network would be mainly used for freight transport. The project has an estimated cost of 1,344 million US dollars (M €).

East Africa

Ruanda, Burundi and Tanzania: Going from narrow to standard track networks. The three countries are working on the modernization of 970 kilometers of network, which will go from narrow to standard track gauge. The project will link the railway from Dar es Salaam to Isaka in Northwest Tanzania and Kigali in Rwanda, with a link from Keza to Musongati in Burundi. This will be a fre- ight transport line intended for trains of 32.4 tons of load per axle, although its use for passengers is not excluded. The planned investment is in the amount of 7,600 million US dollars. (€ 6,594 M).

Kenya: Lapsset railway corridor. This project was designed by the Government a few years ago with the aim of channeling oil exports in East Africa. The objective is to develop a 1,700-kilo- meter corridor linking the new Port of Lamu, 200 kilometers North of Mom- basa, to Ethiopia and Southern Sudan. The estimated cost is in the amount of 7,100 million US dollars (€ 6,142 M). Of this item, 480 million US dollars (€ 3,010 M) are for civil works; another 1,200 million dollars has been approved for track infrastructure (€ 1,038 M) and 1,220 million (€ 1,055 M) for rolling stock. It also includes the signaling and telecommunications field, with 520 million US dollars (€ 453 M) and a building, with a budget of 300 million US dollars (€ 259 M). The network is included in an initiative, called “LAPSSET Program”, to give an impetus to the country’s industrialization in the medium term and to make Kenya a commercial reference by 2030. Under this program, besides the described branch, new roads, airports and an oil pipelines will be carried out in Southern Sudan. The Port of Lamu, located in the Northeast of the country, will put in motion 24 million tons of freight each year by 2030.

Kenya: Standard Gauge Railway (SGR). in May 2017, Kenya’s President, Uhuru Kenyatta, commissioned a part of the first phase of this ambitious project. This involves a 472-kilometer branch, under the responsibility of China Harbor Engineering Company, which runs from Mombasa to Nairobi, the capital of the country. This section will be completed in three years. The next stage will be the construction of a 505-kilometer route from Nairobi to Malaba and, subsequently, a 132-kilometer branch will be added to Kisumu. In total, this passenger and freight corridor has a budget of 3,200 million US dollars. This is the largest infrastructure in history. Later, it will extend to Uganda, Rwanda, Southern Sudan and Ethiopia, making Kenya the center of East African railway links.

Tanzania: Connection of mining areas with ports. Tanzania Transport and Infrastructure has planned investments of $ 14.2 billion (€ 12.3 billion) over the next five years to fully modernize the rail network. Among the most relevant projects is the improvement of a 1,000 kilometer line from the southern mining areas to the Mtwara port.

 South Africa

South Africa: Investments in network improvement and modernization. South Africa has one of the continent’s most modern rail networks, with 33,400 kilometers. Due to the weight of infrastructures in the economy, in recent years, the investments were directed to the improvement and maintenance so as to follow the growth path. As a result of this commitment to the freight transport, the “MDS Plan” (Market Demand Strategy) is designed in the short term with an investment of € 22,000 M. This program prioritizes the development and expansion of rail infrastructures so that the freight transport would be rather performed by railway than by road and to increase the capacity to respond to the current demand. In 30 years, TRANSNET takes into consideration an even greater impetus to the network, within the “Long-Term Planning Framework (LTPF)”, with new freight and rolling stock terminals. One of its objectives is to increase the railway load capacity from 79.7 to 170.2 Mtpy. Two key projects are the improvements in the Sishen line, which links the iron ore network to Gauteng, Botswana and the Waterberg mine through the West Rand-Mahikeng branch and the Trans- Kalahari railway, which provides a way out for coal from the Port of Walvis Bay in Namibia.

Botswana and Namibia: Transkalahari Railway.  The 1,447-kilometer TransKalahari railway line would link the coal fields of the Mmama- bula mine, in Botswana, to the Port of Walvis Bay, in Namibia. The governments of both countries have signed a second memorandum of understanding to carry out the project, under the public-private formula (PPP), in a viable way. The plans, still being analyzed for the necessary financing, aim to create a powerful freight network between both countries. For this, a terminal of five lines for coal load and a terminal in bulk will be required among other proposals. The preferred route would pass through the City of Gobabis and the Okahandja Village. Cost estimates have considerably varied since the beginning and these are now estimated to be around 15,000 million US dollars (€ 10,307 M).

Zambia and Tanzania: modernization of Tazara infrastructure. Zambia’s Development and Planning Minister, Lucky Mulusa, has announced an investment in the amount of 1,200 million US dollars (€ 824 M) for the revi- talization of the infrastructure of the well known “Tanzania-Zambia Railway Authority” (TAZARA). This budget is part of the national “2017-2021 SNDP” program. The main works include the modernization of links to the ports of Bagamoyo, on the coast of Tanzania, as well as those of Itungi and Kasanga, in the Tanganyika Lake area. TAZARA estimates that 250 million US dollars (€ 171 M) would be ne- cessary for track equipment, rolling stock and other needs.

Mozambique and Swaziland: Chongoene Transport Corridor. Transport authorities will work with the mining companies that manage the extraction of heavy sands in Chibuto, one of the twelve districts composing the Province of Gaza in Mozambique, for the development of the Chongoene Transport Corridor. This route would facilitate the transport of products from the mines. The idea is to commission a 600-kilometer rail link to Swaziland and a port access in Mapai, near the Zimbabwe border.

Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia: Cross-border reinforcement. Angola’s Ministry of Transport has announced the development of a cross-border railway network through which it will link to Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia. This corridor will start from Luau, the Province of Moxico, in Northeastern Angola. The Benguela railway line will be used for the new infrastructure.

Mozambique, Botswana and Zimbabwe: rail freight line. Mozambique, Botswana and Zimbabwe have also signed an agreement to create a freight railway corridor. This network would establish a new link between Fran- cistown (Botswana) and the Port of Te- chobanine (Mozambique), via Bulawayo (Zimbabwe). Therefore, the transport in Southern Africa would be improved and an impetus would be given to the international integration and cooperation in terms of infrastructure, together with the private sector, which is vital to the necessary investments. The memorandum of understanding signed between the three countries indicates that this network will have 1,500 kilometers and that each state will contribute with 200 million US dollars. The rest of the capital is expected to be collected through Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) with the private sector. The estimated cost of the project is in the amount of 7,000 million US dollars. In addition, the developer will have to finance the construction of the facilities at the Port of Techobanine, Southern Maputo, in Mozambique. With this new line, two landlocked countries, Zimbabwe and Botswana, would be linked to the facilities of the Port of Mozambique. The project will facilitate investments in the mining industry, as well as transport and production in regions directly crossed by railway and in adjacent regions. Once entered into operation, this will boost the trade with Asia, Europe and America.

Central Africa

Gabon: Rehabilitation of the Trans-Gabonese line.  The International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the French development agency, called PROPARCO, co-operate with Gabon to give an impetus to its freight links. This is the first stage of the rehabilitation and renovation project drafted for the “Trans-Gabonese” railway line of 660 kilometers. This branch goes from Franceville, inside the country, to the Port of Owendo, near the City of Libreville. Société d’Exploitation du Transgabonais (Setrag), a subsidiary of the manganese mining company, called COMILOG, as Concessionaire, will be responsible for improving the network, which will be provided with new rolling stock. 280 million US dollars will be invested in this initial phase.

Cameroon: New port in Lolabe with railway access. The development of a port in Lolabe, a coastal town in the South of Cameroon, is still in the planning stage. The idea is to receive the iron production from several mines, of 35 million tons per year, such as Mbalam, Nabeba and Badondo in Cameroon and the Republic of Congo. The project also includes the “Edea-Kribi-Lolabé” railway line, which would facilitate the transport of minerals.

Central African Republic: Impetus given to transport corridors. The Government of the Central African Republic aims to promote railway trans- port corridors for the purpose of boosting exports in a landlocked country. The two main trade ports are Douala, in Cameroon, for road links and Pointe Noire,in the Republic of Congo, for maritime links. The studied lines include a new route in the Southwest towards Cameroon, routes to Sudan and a Southwestern link to the TransGabon railway.

Cameroon and Chad: Yaoundé-Kousseri. The World Bank finances the improvement of the Yaoundé-Kousseri transport corridor with 71 million US dollars (€ 61 M). This is a 987kilometer line going from Southern Cameroon to the far north province, near the border of Chad. Works are part of the country’s multimodal road and railway transport project and has a total cost of 91 million US dollars (€ 78 M). The project is under the responsibility of Camrail, the national freight and passenger railway concessionaire. Although more than 70% of the corridor is in good condition, in recent years, the corridor has experienced a large increase in traffic and this is why new investments have been approved for the improvement of aspects, such as traffic signaling and control systems and the rehabilitation of bridges.