The proposed new Dar es Salaam-Isaka–Rusumo-Kigali-Keza-Musongati railway from the Tanzanian port to Rwanda and Burundi has reached implementation stage. An inter-ministerial meeting in Kigali has authorised the procurement of consultants to carry out a detailed evaluation. These are likely to be Canrail/Gibb, who carried out the feasibility examination.
The new study will include details of expropriation, rail alignment, geo-technical investigations and environmental management. The project cost is now estimated at $US5.1 billion. The African Development Bank has signed a grant and loan agreement with the three countries involved.
Studies conducted by DB International from Germany and BNSF from the USA predicted an internal rate of return ranging between 25 and 35%. According to Rwanda Transport Development Agency (RTDA) director-general Elias Twagira, these findings mean the project is economically viable. The mining industry in the region alone, he says, would make the railway profitable by transporting minerals to Dar. He points out that one has to look at long-term benefits, not the short-term investment. Asked how funding would work and how much each country would contribute, Rwanda Focus quoted Twagira saying: “Whoever comes to invest in this project will pay all the money because this is a joint venture between Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi; if we fail to get the investor, then each country may have to pay its portion depending on the distance.”
In terms of the proposals, Tanzania is to upgrade 980km of line from Dar es Salaam to Isaka and construct a new 360km section from there to Rusomo on the border with Rwanda. Rwanda has to build a new 135km line from Rusumo to Kigali, while Burundi will be required to construct 195km of line from Keza to Musongati.
To overcome problems posed by the undulating topography in Rwanda, the proposed route is to run in the main along valleys and the lower level of hill slopes. Another challenge is that expensive, skilled manpower is needed. A potential difficulty that has not escaped notice concerns the inevitability of delays in a project requiring three-way consensus in decision-making.