|Port of Dar-Es-Salaam: A bottleneck on Central Corridor|
POOR TRANSPORT infrastructure in East Africa stymies growth in East Africa. The region is aware of that bottleneck and has drawn plans to develop the necessary infrastructure. However, funding is a major hurdle. This article looks at the potential benefits that could be unleashed by developing transport infrastructure.
We call on East Africa governments to borrow a leaf from Ethiopia's book. The country issued an infrastructure bond targeting Ethiopians in the diaspora to build the 6.000MW renaissance dam. We begin our analysis with the central corridor
The Central Corridor connects the port of Dar es Salaam to the inland regions of Tanzania and to Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo's Kivu province. This corridor comprises a network of roads and railways passing Lake Victoria to the south. Along this route, it also taps into East Africa's most established mining region: the greenstone belts of Tanzania. Its farthest extension into the Democratic Republic of the Congo also taps into the limited mining activity in the Great Lakes region.
The minerals extracted here are exported through Port of Dar-Es salaam in Tanzania. The Central Corridor, mainly serves the Tanzania's economy due to the limited amount of goods going in and out of Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Along the Central Corridor, roads still carry the bulk of traded goods; railways transport only about 10 percent of total goods, because Tanzania's railroads need to be upgraded. The backbone of the Central Corridor is the Central Rail Line that runs between Dar es Salaam and Kigoma in western Tanzania. While this railway was designed to handle 5 million metric tons of cargo per year, it currently only carries less than 10 percent of its capacity.
Countries such as China and Japan have offered support and funding to refurbish the railroads and purchase new locomotives and carriages, although much of the money required to completely renovate the existing railway network -- an estimated $1 billion -- has not been secured yet.
In the short term, transport along the Central Corridor could benefit from upgrades to the railroad, while in the medium term it could benefit most from the use of more trains. In the long term, however, Tanzania may be required to convert its current meter gauge (1,000 millimeters) railways to the standard gauge (1,435 millimeters), which could handle a larger capacity. Such a conversion, which would require the construction of a completely new railroad, cannot be completed in the short term because Tanzania cannot suspend railway operations and because the country's existing railroad bridges cannot accommodate the wider gauge.
Although Tanzania's railroads currently operate well below their capacity, transport along this route could quickly increase if refurbished to improve its efficiency and reliability. While roads is the popular mode of transporting the bulk of goods along the Central Corridor, it takes trucks four days to travel down the Central Corridor while it takes a train only two. Moreover, by shifting heavy transport from the roads onto the railway, Tanzania can extend the life of her roads.
Besides, a shift in to rail transport will result in emerging industries and prospective mining projects also increasing the volume of goods transported by rail. These mining projects include gold, nickel, copper and uranium projects in Tanzania, as well as other projects farther inland in Burundi, Rwanda or possibly Uganda.
For example,just a single project, the Mkuju River project, could raise Tanzania's demand for Railway services in Tanzania. This project will make Tanzania the world's second-largest producer of uranium producing 140,000 tons of uranium per year.
Apart from improving existing railroads, Tanzania also plans several notable expansions of its railroad network that will either extend into new areas or relieve pressure on the Central Railway Line. One of these projects would extend the Central Corridor's railways into Musongati, Burundi, which would also create a better connection with the Democratic Republic of the Congo's Kivu provinces.
Another section of railroad is planned to run between Tanga, Arusha and Musoma running parallel to the border with Kenya. From Musoma on the banks of Lake Victoria, existing ferry connections would offer a direct link with Kampala in Uganda. Although the Tanga -Musoma line is not part of the central Corridor, it would be able to ease pressure on the Port of Dar-Es-Salaam, a critical component of the Central Corridor infrastructure.
The Port of Dar-Es salaam is a critical constraints of Central Corridor. Delays at the port, which is operating near its capacity, can last an average of three or four days. Other constraints along the corridor, such as customs checks at border posts, can easily delay travel times by three quarters of an hour -- or in some places, such as Kabanga along the Tanzanian-Burundian border, by an entire day -- but these are still well below the average delays noted in Dar es Salaam.
Lags in development and in construction of new facilities limit the port's ability to keep up with traffic. The lack of deep-water berths is one of the results of this underdevelopment.
Another berth is being constructed at the port, but the area around it is very congested because it is located near the central business district. The unavailability of land behind the berths severely limits the port's future expansion. Other plans have been proposed, such as the development of the port of Maruhubi on the island of Zanzibar as a dedicated container terminal, which would relieve a considerable amount of pressure currently on Dar es Salaam.
The Chinese are also breaking ground on the Bagamoyo port project located north of Dar es Salaam that could become a world-class port facility and involve road and rail connections to the Central Corridor.
While most of the Central Corridor operates well below its capacity, extensive refurbishing projects are needed to improve performance. Increasing the capacity of the port of Dar es Salaam -- the main bottleneck in the Central Corridor infrastructure -- will also be necessary.
Several solutions to these challenges are available, but funding is often difficult to secure and this casts doubt on the feasibility of these projects. However, growing economic activity, both in the primary sectors and in low-end manufacturing in different countries around Lake Victoria, could make these projects along the Central Corridor more important.