Tanzania, Burundi sign $900M deal to build railway

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Tanzania and Burundi signed an agreement worth $900 million to build a railway line that will connect the two countries, Tanzania’s Finance Ministry said in a statement Sunday, adding that the two neighboring East African nations are searching for financial backers for the project.

The 282-kilometer (175-mile) line, which will connect the western Tanzanian town of Uvinza with the Burundian political capital of Gitega, is the latest step toward Tanzania’s goal of building a 2,561-kilometer railway network to boost regional trade.

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More than a million tons of cargo will be ferried on the track between the two East African countries, and it will transport more than 3 million tons of minerals from Burundi to Tanzania each year, the statement said.

It said the two countries are looking for finance for the project, designed to reduce transportation costs, fast-track industrialization and improve the overall regional economy.

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“The minister of finance in Burundi and I are starting to look for areas where we can raise money to implement this project,” Tanzania’s Finance Minister Mwigulu Nchemba said in the statement.

The project’s financial details would be released soon, but the cost would not exceed $900 million, Nchemba said.

Tanzania will construct a 156-kilometer section from the small town of Malagarasi to Uvinza, while Burundi will construct a 126-kilometer stretch to Gitega, the statement said.

Tanzania aims to build 2,561 kilometers of standard gauge railway lines linking its main Indian Ocean port of Dar es Salaam to eastern and southern Africa’s hinterland.

In addition to links to Burundi, the rail would also connect the port with the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zambia, Rwanda and Uganda.

Construction of the first 1,219 kilometers phase, connecting Dar es Salaam to the city of Mwanza in northwestern Tanzania on the shores of Lake Victoria, is underway.

Last month, Tanzania signed a contract with Turkish firm Yapı Merkezi to build the latest section of that line, a 368-kilometer stretch connecting the central town of Makutopora to the northwestern region of Tabora.

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