China Railways has proposed the construction of a rail link connecting Mozambique to Zimbabwe via Zambia, a project costing an estimated US$2.5 billion that will give companies in the latter two countries easy access to Mozambique’s ports.

The Trans-Zambezi line project led a delegation from China Railways, headed by Vice President Shao Gang, to contact with the local government in late July along with local partner Global Power Bridge International, according to a report in the Harare press.

The first phase of the project will consist of a 400-kilometre link between Shamva in Zimbabwe and Moatize in Mozambique, from where a 900-kilometre line will reach the port of Nacala (Nacala Logistics Corridor, where coal is transported from the Moatize mine, produced by Brazilian company Vale), a project inaugurated in May 2017 by the President of Mozambique.

The construction of new sections of this line and the reconstruction of others began in 2012 and include a 200-kilometre stretch that runs through neighbouring Malawi.

The China Railways project also involves the construction of a 1,700-kilometre line directly connecting Binga, on Zimbabwean border with Zambia, to the port of Nacala.

China Railways stated its interest in the project in March this year in a letter to the Zimbabwean government signed by Gang Shao, according to the Financial Gazette.

“We have been working closely with Global Power Bridge International to establish the foundations of the rail project and we are ready to start it,” said Shao.

The project also involves China’s New Century Energy International, which has a US$500 million large-scale soybean production project in Zimbabwe.

The president of Mozambique’s port and railway company CFM, a state-owned company that has stakes in all the country’s ports, recently announced that the company intends to invest US$200 million in the modernisation of its rail network over the next three years.

A recent article in China-Lusophone Brief (CLBrief), a news service on China and the Portuguese-speaking countries, suggests Mozambique may have a role to play in the new generation of railways in Africa.

The article notes that the new wave of railway construction pays more attention to the real needs of African countries, such as those being built to connect the ports of Mombasa and Dar-es-Salaam in the Indian Ocean, to countries without direct access to the sea in the Great Lakes region.

Mozambique could be one of the major players in this second railway revolution as, while its railways serve primarily to carry coal, they could also serve to support the growth of cross-border trade.

Railway lines carrying coal from South Africa and Botswana for export may be used to transport other products and the lines that exist in the north-central region of the country may also be used to transport the products that the landlocked countries in the region, such as Malawi and Zimbabwe, need to export.

In addition to the Sena line linking Moatize to the port of Beira, in Sofala province, there is another line that was built in the colonial period linking the port to Zimbabwe, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, which although it is in operation as far as Zimbabwe needs a massive investment in order to serve its original purpose.

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ZIMENE MUMAKONDA

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