Rail-line linking Zambia, DRC, Namibia to commerce in three years time

The construction of a railway line that will integrate three SADC member states - Zambia, Namibia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) - is expected to kick off in the next two years if all processes are finalised promptly.

Ralph Sarjoo, Director of Epinsan Consortium in South Africa, which is heading the Western Rail Project, made this remark during the Logistics Hub Forum in Windhoek, Namibia.

“The project has taken a long time, but in the next two years all processes will have been finalised and we should be on our way,” he said.

The Western Rail Project that is to connect the three countries and link them to the port of Walvis Bay in Namibia can only be feasible if all the parties agree on public-private partnership (PPP) modalities and also agree to a seamless rail service with unbroken block trains.

The rail will connect the three countries from the ore-rich Province of Katanga at Fungulume in the DRC, down to Lumwana mines in Zambia with links to Solwezi, down to Mulobezi sawmills and Sesheke and into Namibia via Katima Mulilo to Grootfontein and to the Port of Walvis Bay.

“This unlocks the potential of various economies, as we present an integrated rail project – this speaks into the future of the Walvis Bay Port and TransNamib in ensuring that they sustain the throughput on rail and their port,” stressed Sarjoo.

According to Sarjoo, the pre-feasibility study also indicated that the construction of the railway line was going to be economically feasible if it could attract one million tons of cargo per annum - mostly composed of copper, agricultural, timber, mining equipment and other equipment by various industries along the route.

“This can have strong impact on the social and economic transformation of all three member states,” he pointed out.

EPINSAN first presented an un-solicited bid to construct Solwezi-Lumwana-Kaoma-Mongu-Sesheke-Katima Mulilo railway line through the Public-Private Partnership in 2009, while a pre-feasibility study was completed in September 2011.

In 2012, the Ministry of Transport and Communication signed an agreement to facilitate discussions between the tripartite member states.

EPINSAN Consortium Zambia Limited completed a full feasibility study in December 2012.

The entity also met with several Namibian officials in 2016 on the railway project and is to sign a PPP Agreement with the government of Namibia to construct the missing rail links between Zambia and Grootfontein in Namibia.

EPINSAN will simultaneously also enter into commercial (PPP) agreement with TransNamib to manage the line from Katima Mulilo and Grootfontein to the Port of Walvis Bay and to construct rail spurs into Angola.

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