China presented a plan to spend more than $1 billion refurbishing a key railway connecting Zambia’s copper heartland with the Indian Ocean port of Dar es Salaam in neighbouring Tanzania.
Beijing’s ambassador to Zambia, Du Xiaohui, on Wednesday handed the proposal to Frank Tayali, the nation’s transport minister, saying in comments broadcast on state radio that the investment amount would be over the “coming years.”
The Tanzanian and Zambian governments handed the concession to run the so-called Tazara railroad on a commercial basis to a Chinese state-owned company. A team from China Civil Engineering Construction Corp. visited the two African nations to study the line ahead of submitting the proposal.
China built and financed the 1,860-kilometer (1,156-mile) railway in the 1970s and it’s since fallen into disrepair, operating at a fraction of its design capacity. The line will compete directly with another railroad the US is backing to connect Zambia westward to the Lobito port on Angola’s Atlantic coast, both part of efforts to expand export routes for copper and cobalt mines in Zambia and Democratic Republic of Congo to the north.
The region is becoming central to efforts by the US and the European Union to secure access to minerals that electric-vehicle manufacturers can’t do without, and which are critical to the broader energy transition. Especially in Congo, China has been the dominant force for years.
China, Tanzania and Zambia will undertake the revitalization of Tazara using a public-private partnership model, Du said.
The announcement came a day before the US was due to host an investment forum for the Lobito corridor in Zambia, with Amos Hochstein, President Joe Biden’s energy and investment adviser, and President Hakainde Hichilema among the speakers.