DR Congo to Join Standard Gauge Railway Project

The 8th Session of JPC was attended by officials from Uganda led by Rt. Hon. Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga, First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for East Africa Community Affairs and Ministers from DRC led by Hon. Antipas Mbusa Nyamwisi, Minister for Regional Integration

Kinshasha, DR Congo | THE BLACK EXAMINER | The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has affirmed its commitment to participate in East Africa’s ambitious Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) project.

The transcontinental railway project aims to link the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, thereby enhancing regional connectivity and trade.

During the recent DRC-Uganda Joint Permanent Commission (JPC) meetings in Kinshasa, it was decided that Uganda would extend an invitation to the DRC to attend the upcoming Northern Corridor Infrastructure Projects SGR Cluster meeting.

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According to the resolutions from the meeting, which were obtained by The Black Examiner, the DRC will appoint three engineers to represent the country in the SGR Cluster meetings by the end of December 2023. Additionally, the DRC will collaborate with Uganda to establish a timeline for implementing the SGR network to ensure alignment with Uganda’s railway standards by March 2024. Joint site visits at border points by technical teams from both countries are also scheduled for March 2024.

The decision to involve the DRC in the railway project was made during the SGR cluster meeting in Kampala in May 2023 when it became evident that the SGR lines planned by Uganda and Kenya extended to the borders of the DRC. This includes Uganda’s SGR line, which will traverse from Malaba through Kampala, Bihanga, and Kasese to Mpondwe at the DRC border.

Tanzania has already completed feasibility studies and preliminary designs for Phase 2 of the project, which will involve constructing a 506 km railway line from Tabora to Kigoma, connecting to Lake Tanganyika.

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The Kinshasa meeting was attended by 12 Ministers from Uganda, led by Rt. Hon. Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga, First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for East Africa Community Affairs, and 18 Ministers from the DRC, led by Hon. Antipas Mbusa Nyamwisi, Minister for Regional Integration.

Despite the DRC’s abundant resources, including copper, cobalt, and gold, as well as the world’s second-largest rainforest, the country’s population remains relatively impoverished due to inadequate transportation infrastructure and limited access to regional markets.

Experts believe that the DRC’s involvement in the early stages of the SGR project’s implementation will enhance efforts to secure funding and promote cooperation in feasibility studies for the project. Eng. Canon Perez Wamburu, the SGR Project coordinator, emphasized the importance of DRC’s participation, considering its membership in the East African Community (EAC) and its strategic location along potential railway routes.

The decisions made in Kinshasa are considered a significant stride towards strengthening trade relations between East and West African nations, with the goal of reducing transit times for goods within the continent and beyond. Currently, intra-African trade represents only about 15% of total African trade.

Amb Richard Kabonero, the Coordinator of the Northern Corridor Infrastructure Projects at Uganda’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stressed the critical importance of investing in regional infrastructure, including roads, railways, waterways, aviation, and ICT, to lower business costs, boost trade, and stimulate economic growth. He encouraged collaborative efforts to revitalize the Northern Corridor Infrastructure Projects framework and secure the necessary financing for its realization.

In 2022, the DRC was admitted to the EAC, becoming the fourth-largest African country by population with 95 million people. The DRC is a major trading partner for Uganda in East Africa, with Uganda exporting various goods, including cement, palm oil, beer, sugar, iron and steel, rice, cocoa beans, and natural rubber. Over the years, trade between the two countries has significantly increased, with Uganda’s exports to the DRC reaching $338.56 million (1.2 trillion Ugandan Shillings) in 2021.

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