The Port of Mombasa is bracing for potential business setbacks following the injection of $696 million by the African Development Bank (AfDB) to propel the completion of the second phase of the Tanzania-Burundi-DRC modern railway line.

The newly secured funds are earmarked for the construction of a 651-kilometer stretch of the Tanzania-Burundi railway line, connecting it seamlessly to the Dar es Salaam Port.

This development is poised to reshape the regional logistical landscape with goods destined to DRC and Burundi likely to shift to the central corridor.

Presently, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) rely on Mombasa as their primary port through the northern corridor.

However, the impending completion of phase two of the Tanzanian Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) is anticipated to redirect cargo flow to the central corridor, potentially benefiting the Port of Dar es Salaam.

AfDB says the standard gauge railway project will be seamlessly integrated with Tanzania’s existing railway network, providing efficient access to the Port of Dar es Salaam.

The ambitious project entails the establishment of a single electrified standard gauge track, branched into three sections: Tabora – Kigoma (411 km) and Uvinza – Malagarasi (156 km) in Tanzania, and the Malagarasi – Musongati section (84 km) in Burundi.

While Kenya and Uganda recently inked an agreement to extend the SGR from Naivasha to Kampala via Malaba, the implementation of the deal remains uncertain as Kenya grapples with securing funding from Chinese sources.

Uganda’s recent Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signifies a clear commitment to advancing its SGR line between Malaba and Kampala, a move that was previously lacking in dedication. This development hints at Uganda’s readiness to finalise its section along the northern corridor.

Historically, the Port of Mombasa has been the preferred gateway for Great Lakes countries. However, there has been a notable shift as some landlocked neighbors are increasingly opting for the central corridor and embracing the Port of Dar es Salaam.

The central corridor, spanning 1,300 kilometers, starts from the Port of Dar es Salaam, catering to Tanzania, Zambia, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, and Eastern DRC.

In contrast, the northern corridor, covering 1,700 kilometers, starts from the Port of Mombasa, serving Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Eastern DRC.

The implementation of the SGR is anticipated to significantly reduce transit times for cargo, with logistics experts suggesting potential cost advantages.

The evolving dynamics highlights the changing preferences in cargo transportation, with implications for regional trade and the competitive positioning of key ports.

gandae@businessdayafrica.org

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