Major Railway Projects Back on the Agenda for Africa

The last decade of wars, financial crisis and the COVID 19 pandemic led to the suspension of many ambitious infrastructure projects in Africa. This is now changing, and is expected to gain even more impetus as the BRICS dynamic sweeps over the continent.

Libya: The end of the Libyan civil war through a ceasefire and the ongoing political negotiations between a Tripoli-based Presidential Council and the Benghazi based House of Representatives, should lead to the resumption of the ambitious railway projects that were suspended after the NATO intervention and murder of Muammar Qaddafi. According to the Libyan Herald of July 31, Libyan Railroads and the Russian Railways Company (RZD) held discussions on reactivating the $4.5 billion project for a 554 km railway line linking Benghazi and Sirte along the Mediterranean coast.

On July 23, a meeting was held between Said Al-Kilani, the head of Libyan Railways, and the ambassadors of Chad and Niger, where the former proposed building a rail line linking Chad and Niger with the southern Libyan city of Sebha and then on to Libya’s coastal ports. This would give the Sahel direct access to the Mediterranean and thus reduce transportation costs. A double track coastal line is also under discussion from Ras Jedir on the Tunisian border to Tobruk near the Egyptian border, for which the design speed of the train would be 250 kph. From Al-Hisha near the port of Misrata, there would then be a single track line going south down to Sebha for trains with a design speed of 160 kph.

East Africa: The government of Kenya has resumed plans to build the $13.8 billion high speed Standard-Gauge Railway line that will run from the new Lamu port in Kenya up to Ethiopia, and then later extended to South Sudan for a distance of 3,000 km. One branch will go to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, a second to Juba, South Sudan, and a third to Nairobi, Kenya. According to the Lapsset Corridor Development Authority, which is the agency that manages the project, the Kenyan government is requesting $9 million from the African Union infrastructure fund to finance feasibility and engineering studies. Construction could start in 2025 and would be part of the larger $22 billion Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor (Lapsset), which also foresees the building of oil pipelines, a refinery plant, roads, and airports.

Kenya-Uganda: The governments of these two countries have agreed to seek financing for the the extension of the already operating Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway from Naivasha, Kenya to Kampala, Uganda, a project that was suspended because of a lack of financing.

Tanzania: The African Development Bank (AfDB) expressed interest in June in contributing financial support for the proposed Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) project in Tanzania, that would link the Tanzanian port of Dar es Salaam with land-locked Burundi.

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