On Friday 13 November 2009, DRC President Joseph Kabila officially launched a “titanic” project - the reconstruction of Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Congolais (SNCC - the state railway in the Democratic Republic of Congo). According to the official report: “With 3,641km of track including 858km electrified and 12,500 employees, the SNCC network is equivalent to that in five 5 countries totalled together (Camrail in Cameroon, Transrail in Sénégal and Mali, and Sitarail in Côte d'Ivoire and Burkina Faso).
The infrastructure, both track and rolling stock, is old and “20 years overdue for investment. The workforce has an average age of 55 years and salary payments are many months in arrear, to the extent of some $US1.4 billion.”
Following an international tender process, the Belgian firm Vecturis SA was selected to assist in rehabilitating SNCC. “Their technical assistance mission began in July 2009, fully funded by the World Bank.”
The chief executive officer of SNCC is Freddy Strumane. Vincent Tshiongo has been appointed chief technology officer. Norbert Lubanda is managing director and Faithful Mwamba is chief financial officer.
In 2009, a $US5.25 million contribution by the government and $14.2 million from the African Development Bank (ADB). maintained stabilising activities at SNCC within the integrated programme of reforms, led by portfolio minister Jeanine Mabunda and Copirep - the Steering Committee of Reforms. However, SNCC is heavily dependent on financial assistance from outside the DRC. The resources needed to effect complete recovery of the railway are being mobilised by a team led by minister of transport and communications Mpita Mathieu. It is foreseen that $360 million will be needed immediately - “at least” $160 million from the World Bank and
$200 million “Cooperation Sino Congolese”. It is hoped that the bank will assist further in meeting SNCC's “cash deficit”.
The “massive” envisaged investment programme involves the acquisition of 35 new locomotives, 100 passenger coaches, 200 freight wagons, two electric substations and all the equipment necessary for rehabilitating some 700km of track on the sections Sakania-Lubumbashi-Luambo-Tenke-Kolwezi-Luilu; Kamina-Kipukwe-Lusenji-Kabongo-Kabalo; and Kimanda-Kaniama-Mwene Ditu.
The financial plan also includes the rehabilitation of 350 existing wagons and 17 locomotives, and provision for pension benefits for employees who will reach retirement age within 5 years.
During 2010 it is hoped to start construction on the renewal of track between Tenke and Kisanfu, where a high incidence of derailments is experienced. The overhaul of locomotives and 25 passenger coaches is being prioritised. Other work on the programme will be carried out in the period 2011-2014.