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Three years on, infrastructure development takes centre stage

 

 MODERNIZATION of Tanzania’s infrastructure at a frenzied pace under President John Magufuli’s leadership is expected to power the economy to new heights as the country races to make for lost time. Tanzania, a former socialist state under founder President Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, is slowly disappearing for the day.

The country has turned into an investors’ paradise after it embarked on the road to market-oriented economy two decades ago. With its untapped energy resources and precious raw materials, including rare earth minerals. The country is a place where great riches can be found. Infrastructure such as ports and the road and rail links that connect the country with its eight neighbouring states are now being redeveloped at a pace hitherto unknown in the country’s history.

President Magufuli, who came to power on November 5, 2015, says that the construction of the 2,561-km Standard-Gauge Railway (SGR) which will eventually link the port of Dar es Salaam with Mwanza on Lake Victoria and Kigoma on Lake Tanganyika. As well as neighbouring Rwanda and Burundi, is expected to power the economic renaissance of the country as the most exciting entity in the East African region.

In Africa, transport links, such as the Standard Gauge Railway, are the most important business stories of the day that also attract investors. The construction of Tanzania’s SGR, undertaken jointly by Turkish firm YapiMerkezi and Portugal’s Mota-EngilEngenharia e ConstruçãoÁfrica, means big business to local firms.

Railway industry experts say while the project may leave a gaping hole in the current account, they believe there will be a big relief even before completion through a multiplier effect as many local construction firms will be subcontracted. The suppliers will get businesses and new jobs will be created as a strong workforce will be needed for the work.

Local businesses have started gaining from the project-from local cement manufacturers who have been complaining of suffering from market over-capacity, to steel manufacturers, transporters, hotel owners and other suppliers.

President Magufuli and his Rwandan counterpart, President Paul Kagame, have commissioned a feasibility study into electrification of the long-planned 521-km cross-border rail link between Isaka and Kigali.

Provisionally estimated at US$2.5bn, the line is intended to connect the land-locked countries of Rwanda and Burundi with the inland container terminal at Isaka in Tanzania, which is linked to Dar es Salaam by an existing metre gauge line.

At present around 80 per cent of Rwanda’s international trade passes through Tanzania, although a rail link running north through Uganda is also envisaged.

Meeting in Kigali in March this year, the two countries’ transport ministers agreed to establish a Project Implementation Unit to oversee construction, which is expected to begin later this year under the terms of a bilateral agreement signed by presidents Paul Kagame and John Pombe Magufuli in January.

According to Rwanda’s Minister of State for Transport Jean de Dieu Uwihanganye, the electrification study will be overseen by the Rwanda Transport Development Agency and the Joint Technical Monitoring Committee.

Electric operation would reduce the railway’s environmental impact as well as permitting higher speeds; passenger trains would be able to operate at up to 160 km/h instead of 120&nspb; Km/h, while freight trains could be accelerated from 80 km/h to 120 km/h.

The former Tanzania’s Minister for Works, Transport and Communications Prof Makame Mbarawa told local media “that open tenders would be called for construction of the cross-border line. With tendering expected to take at least three months”, he hoped that a preferred bidder could begin mobilisation in August this year.

“We believe that the foundation stone will be laid in October,” he anticipated. With the cross-border line to be built to 1,435 mm gauge. Tanzania has initiated the construction of a standard gauge line to replace its existing network. Work is already underway on an initial 207-km section between Dar es Salaam and Morogoro, and last year state railway infrastructure authority Reli Assets Holding Co awarded a US$1.92bn contract to Yapı Merkezi to build the next 336-km from Morogoro to Makutupora, north of Dodoma.

This leaves a gap of around 500-km between Makutupora and Isaka to be closed. Kenya has announced plans to electrify the Chinese-built standard gauge railway between Mombasa and Nairobi which opened last year. China Electric Power Equipment & Technology Co is to provide equipment for the two-year project under a US$240m contract awarded by Kenya Electricity Transmission Co.

Also the upgrading of the country’s road network such as the 110-km Dar es Salaam-Chalinze Expressway to a six-lane carriage way to ease traffic on the road leading to the central corridor and other road projects. It is expected to attract a huge number of visitors travelling to the southern Tanzania corridor endowed with abundant tourist attractions.

When Tanzania’s potential for innovation and entrepreneurship is taken into account, a long-term perspective indicates a much brighter future for the whole East African region.

Deeper integration, better-functioning markets, and improved infrastructure could all bear fruit as the country pursues other sources of growth. The African Development Bank has rated the East African Community (EAC)--Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda-as the top-performing regional economic community on the continent.

A report released by the bank finds that the EAC has advanced furthest in reducing cross-border barriers to trade and other economic activity and is ahead of its peers in the categories of trade and productive integration.

East African economies are developing and integrating into a more robust—and potentially huge—regional market to enable the free movement of goods, people, capital, and services across the region.

What is happening in Tanzania, in terms of the redevelopment of road and railway links, is an attractor for economic activity that spreads out as a network, rather than an isolated, linear connector. For this to happen, other economic activity has to be attracted, and the benefits of infrastructure development shared locally, and also more widely.

For Tanzania’s interest, fair trade relations, faster industrialisation and the creation of appropriate infrastructure are the prerequisites in order to be able to integrate young people into the labour market.

The building of the Standard Gauge Railway and the development of road network across the country is a catalyst to the revitalisation of the tourism industry.

Few countries in Africa, if any in the world, have been blessed with an abundance of tourism delights. The coast, with its ribbons of beautiful white beaches, is crammed with cultural and historic sites. The Standard Gauge Railway and the paved road network are expected to attract a huge flow of tourists from neighbouring countries, and the world at large, to visit the southern tourist circuit where the Selous Game Reserve, little touched by human interference, is possibly the most pristine wilderness left in Africa.

The reserve has some of the largest mammal population in the world. Some 400 species of birds make it a bird-watchers’ paradise. Its unique system of rivers and lakes allow the visitor to make boat safaris through spectacular wildlife concentrations. Wildlife in Africa as a resource may be summed up in phrase ‘Profit, Protein, Pride and Prestige’, with enjoyment and scientific interest throw in.

Out of an estimated two million holiday-makers that visit Tanzania annually, only 500 tour the Selous Game Reserve each year, contributing to its pristine character.

Tourism accounts for 14 per cent of Tanzania’s Gross Domestic Product, second only to the 34 per cent generated by agriculture, the mainstay of the economy.

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Author: ALPHA NUHU

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