Driving East African Rail Connectivity: Insights From Central Corridor Transit Transport Facilitation Agency's Zaituni Nakonde

In this edition of Coffee with the Editor, Zaituni Nakonde, Director of Infrastructure Development at the Central Corridor Transit Transport Facilitation Agency (CCTTFA), discusses the role and mandate of the CCTTFA as well as some highlighted activities from the region’s railways.

The Central Corridor is a multilateral organisation initially formed by five governments: Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Recently, Malawi joined, and Zambia is in the process of joining. The Dar es Salaam Corridor, which previously failed to function, is now managed by the Central Corridor, prompting other countries to join.

The mandate of the Central Corridor is to facilitate and coordinate transport along the corridor to promote trade. This aims to reduce transport and production costs along the Central Corridor. The organisation identifies obstacles, brings member states together for decision-making, and ensures smooth operations. The Central Corridor’s activities span infrastructure, policy, customs, logistics, communication, and advocacy, promoting the corridor to the business community.

When discussing rail projects in the East African region and the role of the CCTTFA, rail is seen as a mode of transport that can handle mass cargo in less time and at a lower cost, especially with the new Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) that operates at 160 km/h. This offers a significant advantage to the business community and the countries involved, as it reduces transport time while carrying large volumes of cargo.

The Central Corridor plays a vital role in this. With the SGR, trade from the port to the member states’ destinations will become easier and more cost-effective. One of the main objectives is to increase the usage of the Port of Dar es Salaam. The SGR will connect to the Port of Dar es Salaam, enhancing its utilisation. Even the existing metre-gauge railway is connected to the Port of Dar es Salaam. This means that cargo for any customer can easily reach its final destination. This connection is how the Central Corridor integrates the rail network within the region.

With Tanzania Railways Corporation having already put in place open access, the Central Corridor’s role will be to encourage the private sector to take advantage of this opportunity. Acting as a connection between the public sector and the government, the Central Corridor addresses issues the private sector encounters by identifying the appropriate government bodies to resolve these issues and facilitating discussions to find solutions.

With open access, the Central Corridor’s responsibility is to bring the private sector on board to utilise this opportunity. This benefits the private sector as they would handle transportation themselves. For example, manufacturers in member states who deal with heavy raw materials can use their own wagons for transport, thus determining their delivery times and having more control over their logistics. This increased control and efficiency make the process more advantageous for them, and there is already expressed interest from various companies wanting to take up this opportunity.

CCTTFA’s Role in Facilitating Funding for Railway Projects

There are several challenges in securing funding for railway projects. The CCTTFA assists member states in preparing their projects to meet the specific requirements of various funders. This involves understanding what each funder needs and ensuring that these requirements are addressed during project preparation. By the time the project is presented to the funder, most questions and concerns can be readily answered, making the process smoother.

However, securing funding for rail projects remains a significant challenge in the region. Unlike road projects, which are easily fundable through traditional funders such as the World Bank, the African Development Bank, and the European Investment Bank, rail projects are often expected to be funded by the respective governments.

The CCTTFA is working to overcome these challenges by seeking new funding opportunities, including green financing. Preparing projects to be bankable is complex, as the requirements are not straightforward. Despite these difficulties, the CCTTFA continues to collaborate with all stakeholders to find solutions and secure the necessary funding for railway projects.

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