The Tanzanian government is currently inviting bids for the construction of the Uvinza-Gitega (Tanzania-Burundi) Standard Gauge (SGR) line. Interested parties have till November 15 to submit their bids to the Tanzania Railways Corporation (TRC).
The scope of the work includes the design and construction of the line from Uvinza in western Tanzania to Gitega, the administrative capital of Burundi. This is according to a notice published on August 12.
The TRC stated that both governments have already set aside funding for the bilateral Uvinza-Gitega SGR line project to begin in the financial year 2022–2023. A part of the funds’ revenues will be utilized to cover eligible payments for agreements under the D&B [Design and Build] arrangement. This was revealed by the state-owned enterprise in the notice.
According to the notice, the TRC will be in charge of all involved procurements on behalf of both governments. However, the Uvinza-Gitega SGR line project will be managed jointly with ARTF in Burundi.
Development of the Uvinza-Gitega SGR line project
The Uvinza-Gitega SGR line project has been in the works since the two countries inked a memorandum of understanding in January. Its initial cost was estimated at $900 million.
The line spans approximately 367km and links the line to Burundi. It features 85km of siding/passing loops and 282km of the main railway line. Lot 1 will span a distance of 180 kilometers (km) within Tanzania, from Uvinza to Malagarasi. Lot 2 on the other hand will span a distance of 187 kilometers (km) from Musongati to Gitega.
Upon completion, the Uvinza-Gitega SGR line is projected to increase cross-border trade, which will benefit both countries. Cargo volumes at the port of Dar es Salaam will also increase.
Deal Signed for Construction of 282 Kilometer Tanzania-Burundi SGR Line
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been signed for the construction of a 282 kilometers long Tanzania-Burundi SGR Line that stretches from the western Tanzanian town of Uvinza to the Burundian political capital of Gitega (formerly known as Kitega).
The deal was signed particularly by the finance and transport ministers from the two East African countries in Kigoma, a city and lake port in northwestern Tanzania, on the northeastern shores of Lake Tanganyika, close to the border with Burundi and The Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Tanzania will reportedly construct a 156-kilometer section of the Tanzania-Burundi SGR Railway Line, from the small town of Malagarasi to Uvinza, while Burundi will construct a 126-kilometer stretch from Uvinza to Gitega.
Designed to reduce transportation costs, fast-track industrialization, and improve the overall regional economy upon completion, the Tanzania-Burundi SGR Line will ferry more than a million tons of cargo between the two East African countries, and help transport more than 3 million tons of minerals from Burundi to Tanzania each year.
Cost and funding for the Tanzania-Burundi SGR Railway project
According to Mwigulu Nchemba, the minister of finance in Tanzania, the Tanzania-Burundi SGR Line project is expected to cost not more than US$ 900M. He said that together with the minister of finance in Burundi, they are starting to look for areas where they can raise money to implement the project.
Noteworthy, the project is a part of Tanzania’s aim to construct approximately 2,561 kilometers of standard gauge railway lines linking its main Indian Ocean port of Dar es Salaam to eastern and southern Africa’s hinterland, in a bid to become a regional trade and transport hub.
In addition to Burundi, the rail would also establish a connection of the port to the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zambia, Rwanda, and Uganda.
Tanzania signs deal to link SGR to Burundi and DRC
The government of Tanzania has inked a deal to link its Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) to Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The agreement which was signed between Transport ministers of the three countries Isack Kamwelwe (Tanzania), Jean Bosco (Burundi), and Roger Biasu (DRC), gives Burundi and DRC direct access to the Dar es Salaam Port, greatly boosting Tanzania’s Central Transport Corridor.
Tanzania transport minister Mr. Isack Kamwelwe affirmed that the deal is in line with the completion of a preliminary feasibility study of detailed design plans which was successfully done by the consultancy company Gulf Engineering Ltd.
Standard Gauge Railway (SGR)
The rail line will start from the Uvinza district in the Kigoma region in northwestern Tanzania to Gitega, via the Msongati region, in Burundi, covering a stretch of 240km. It will then be extended to the eastern regions of DRC according to the agreement. A tender for the project will be issued this year.
Upon completion, Tanzania’s SGR line will be a 1,457 km stretch from Dar es Salaam to the shores of Lake Victoria. DRC’s President Felix Tshisekedi commended the deal and said that the extension of the SGR line to Rubavu from Kigali would open trade opportunities for the landlocked DRC which depends largely on the ports of Dar es Salaam and Mombasa to access the sea.
Tanzania will become the third country in East Africa to start enjoying modern railway services after Kenya and Ethiopia. Kenya was the first in the region to start constructing an SGR line, completing over 500km between Mombasa and Nairobi, and also inaugurating its passenger services in June 2017.
US$ 900M needed to expand the Tanzania-Burundi-DRC standard gauge railway
Tanzania, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have appealed to the African Development Bank (AfDB) for a soft loan of $900 million to expand the Tanzania-Burundi-DRC standard gauge railway line that connects Uvinza, Msongati, and Gitega.
Finance ministers Dr. Mwigulu Nchemba, Nicolas Kazadi of the DRC, and Dr. Domitien Ndihokubwayo of Burundi met on the margins of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) governing board meetings.
While the specifics of the plan were not disclosed, a related plan by Tanzania and Rwanda to extend the SGR line to Kigali and then to Rubavu on the DRC border, but plans dated late 2019 show that the first phase of joint construction will extend from Kigoma to the Burundian capital of Gitega (located in central Burundi), a total stretch of 240 km.
Further extensions to eastern DRC are projected, while separate discussions for SGR extension to Rwanda (from Isaka to Kigali) were in the final stages at the time, based on confirmation from the UK weekly, The Economist.
Both nations were looking for funding for the $2.5 billion projects, which gained momentum after DRC President Felix Tshisekedi visited Dar es Salaam and gave the green signal for a feasibility assessment to be carried out to pave the way for the section to its eastern border.
At the time, the SGR extension to Rubavu was scheduled to be built from Kigali, adding to the precise design for expanding the line from Isaka to Kigali, totaling 575 kilometers. Burundi appears to be planning to expand the line from Gitega to Bujumbura in the country’s west and then to Uvira, a DRC tourist town on the northern beaches of Lake Tanganyika.