Africa & World News

US company says US$11bn Zambia-Zimbabwe-Mozambique rail on course

FLORIDA-BASED rail developer Railnet International is planning to invest $11bn in a medium-speed rail line between Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, its chief executive said on Sunday (22 March).

Donald Kress said in an interview with Reuters that company was in talks with governments in the three countries and had, on 21 March, signed an agreement to start feasibility studies in Zambia.

“We have a group known as Magcor International and their chief executive has arranged financing through a group of investors,” he said.

He added: “Until we have signed a contract with the investors, they have requested to remain anonymous.”

The idea is to build a link between Zambia’s Copperbelt province to the port of Beira in Mozambique via Harare in Zimbabwe.

Feasibility studies are expected to begin in the next six weeks and would be followed by detailed engineering design for the project on the Zambian side.

Railnet expects to begin construction in January 2021, and when complete would allow freight trains to travel at 120 km/h and passenger trains at 160 km/h.

Misheck Lungu, Zambia’s permanent secretary for transport, said Railnet would build its line parallel to the existing one.

Railnet, which was set up by a group of rail professionals to develop, designs, build and operate rail systems, is also planning an 18,000km railway network that would interconnect the West Africa nations of Mali, Senegal, The Gambia, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire, Liberia, and Nigeria.

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It said its ECOWAS Rail System would create thousands of jobs and significantly increase the GDP and other economic status of each country it passes through, and will increase regional trade and improve the countries’ access to world markets.

The proposed rail system would be aimed at freight transport, and would connect mining, agriculture and manufacturing areas, which Railnet says will boost trade-based industrialisation that “will have an effect on the region of 300 million that has never before been possible”.

In addition to upgraded and newly constructed railways, Railnet also intends to develop complementary infrastructure along rail routes, including communications, power, and water.

The West African scheme is one of a number that the company has planned for Africa. Its other projects include:

  • The G Rail system for Ghana. This will be a combined passenger and freight service linking mining and agricultural areas. The system would cover over 2,000km route miles with over 4,000km of track.
  • The Dakar-to-Bamako project envisages the upgrading of a 1,228km railway to standard gauge between Senegal and Mali, and is aimed at facilitating the export of Mali’s estimated 2 billion tonnes of bauxite.
  • Upgrading some 5,000km of rail in the Democratic Republic of Congo from narrow to standard gauge.
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