ROAD freight is one of the most common of all modes of transportation.
It is widely used in East Africa as well as the rest of the continent because of its cost-effectiveness, suitability for door-to-door delivery of goods and materials and ability to provide a very cost-effective means of cartage, loading and unloading. However it has its limitations when it comes to bulky cargo.
It is expensive to transporters, consumers and even the government.
Transport costs have significant impacts on the structure of economic activities as well as on trade.
Empirical evidence underlines that raising transport costs by 10 per cent reduces trade volumes by more than 20 per cent and that the general quality of transport infrastructure can account for half of the variation in transport costs.
On the other hand, we have railway transport is economical, quicker and best suited for carrying heavy and bulky goods over long distances.
Transporters will agree that an increase in the railway traffic is followed by a decrease in the average cost. It is against this background that on-going construction of a standard gauge railway is attracting interest from land-locked countries in East Africa as it will link them with the Dar es Salaam port, their main gateway for exports and imports.
They are prepared to use the line once it is completed simply because it makes economic sense. The construction of the railway line goes in line with the upgrading of the Lake ports, which border the neighbouring land-locked countries.
For instance, in Lake Tanganyika ports, significant projects are ongoing to construct new facilities for efficient handling of cargo and passengers, including purchasing and installing of new machines.
It is encouraging that the Kigoma port has now improved its capacity of handling the cargo, after installation of new facilities at the port.
This is a crucial port to connect the cargo from the DR Congo, Zambia, Burundi and Rwanda with the Dar es Salaam port through the central railway.
It is with this fact that the improvement of Kigoma port and others along the Lake Tanganyika will attract a big share of lithium mineral cargo set for extraction in DR Congo.
It will attract more business that will boost its revenue earnings up to fourfold from the next four years, according to port officials. To start with, the ports would be handling 500,000 tonnes of lithium per year when the mining starts in the near future in DR Congo.
We see that massive and ambitious infrastructural railway project will be a perfect example of how land transport infrastructure like a railway line can revolutionise an economy.
We are highly optimistic that the SGR will be a game-changer in transport and prove to be vital for businesses, supply chains and investment in the region.