Zambia and China on Wednesday signed a $2.3 billion deal for the construction of a rail link between central Zambia and the Malawian border.
The deal will enhance transportation between Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique.
The 388-kilometer railway, to run from the eastern town of Chipata to the central town of Serenje via another eastern town of Petauke, where it will meet the existing line to Lilongwe in Malawi and the port of Nacala in Mozambique, will be constructed by China Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC), at a cost of $2.3 billion within a four-year period.
Transport sector experts said Wednesday the deal is a major boost for Malawi as the project will provide the much-needed link between the Zambian main railway line network with the country’s railway line network through the existing Chipata-Mchinji railway line which forms part of the Nacala Corridor.
In Lusaka, the Minister of Transport and Communications Brian Mushimba who signed the deal on behalf of Zambian Government said: “This project aims at enhancing regional trade and transport competitiveness by providing an alternative trade route to the East Coast of Africa via the Port of Nacala in Mozambique.”
The project will enable the two governments to save funds used on rehabilitation of damaged roads due to haulage of bulk and heavy cargo.
The project, Mushimba added, is meant to enhance regional and international trade through the Nacala Development Corridor which involves Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique.
According to him, the project is one of the strategic infrastructure projects the Zambian government intends to implement through the China-Africa Cooperation framework announced by the Chinese government during the 2015 Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (Focac) held in South Africa where 60 billion dollars fund was pledged.
He further expressed confidence in the Chinese firm’s ability to construct the railway within the stipulated period because it has a wealth of experience in undertaking railway construction projects.
On his part, Chinese Ambassador to Zambia Yang Youming said the signing and implementation of the project will further promote bilateral cooperation between the two countries.
The railway line, Yang said, will promote Zambia’s trade, investment, employment and sustainable development and open another route to the sea for the landlocked southern African nation.
“I believe it will be an important part of the integrated southern African transportation system which connects Zambia with Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi and Mozambique,” he added.
Once completed, the railway line will reduce the distance by rail from Kapiri M’poshi, Zambia, to the Indian Ocean to 1 500km. n