Friday, April 09, 2010


THE $900b railway project to connect all the major cities in East Africa will start in May, reports have indicated. Media reports from Ethiopia, quoting the East African Community officials, said feasibility studies for the project that will link south Sudan’s Juba, with Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and northern Sudan, would start next month.

The project is expected to build 15 new railway lines, connecting at least seven countries. But a senior official in the Rift Valley Railways concession in Uganda told reporters that no regional railway project was set to kick off in May. “All those are just plans, which are not concrete and very far from realisation,” said the expert.

The expert said most of the planned railway projects face the challenge of funding, adding that the most realistic one was the Mombasa-Kampala railway. “That one (Mombasa-Kampala) is going to be done. The presidents of Kenya and Uganda have resolved to work on it urgently,” said the source. Both ministers in charge of transport were not available for comment as their cell phones were switched off. A secretary in John Nasasira’s office said the minister was out of office. In the EAC railway line, Ethiopia and Kenya would have two railway branches, connecting them with Sudan, according to the reports.

The first railway line will connect Addis Ababa with the Kenyan northern border town of Garissa, while the other will connect another Kenyan coastal town, Lamu, to Juba through Garissa town in North Eastern Kenya. Kostelo Garang, an adviser to the president of the Government of southern Sudan and the director general of the project, is quoted as having said the project would open job opportunities to more than 5,000 people in the south. Across Africa, railway lines have largely failed to take off, apart from Morocco, Egypt, Zambia and South Africa.

It is argued that the lack of a functioning railway system across Africa is one of the great economic tragedies of the continent that is endowed with high-value, but bulky resources, ranging from minerals to agricultural produce. Because of this, sub-Saharan African countries have remained uncompetitive. If completed, the East African railways project will activate economic, social and political development on the continent, with further huge potential to spur trade across the vast region.