Investors Sought for African Rail and Port
The state-owned rail companies of Botswana and Mozambique are preparing to build an estimated $7-billion transport project that would include one of Africa’s longest railways and a deepwater port on the Indian Ocean, south of Maputo. A recent agreement between the two governments calls for the scheme to include private financing, but backing has not yet been secured.
The new railway would run from Botswana Railways’ (BR) Francistown Container Terminal across Zimbabwe to the site of the new port at Techobanine Point. Mozambique’s ports at Beira, Nacala and Maputo are served by three existing railroads.
“The preparatory phase, including mobilization of finance, should be completed by the end of 2011. The first phase of construction is expected to take place between 2012 and 2015,” notes Adelino Mesquito, the chief executive officer of Mozambique Ports and Railways Co., Maputo.
Mozambique’s parliament already has approved construction of the Techobanine Point port. The port would handle 300,000-tonne vessels and 50 million tonnes of heavy cargo a year, generating revenues exceeding $300 million.
To raise project financing, the two governments have agreed to lease both the port and railway to the private sector. “If there is no interest from private investors, then there will be no problem arranging public investment because the project justifies this,” claims Mozambique’s transport minister, Paulo Zucula.
Importantly, the project has reportedly won support from the 14-nation Southern African Development Community. SADC officials recently signaled their intention to seek financial backing from South Africa and Swaziland. “SADC … believes this project is important in the region,” the body’s executive secretary, Tomas Salomao, told local reporters.
The project will reduce Botswana’s dependence on South Africa as a transit country for its mineral exports, according to BR Chairman Taolo Sebonego. “[It will] reduce the time Botswana takes to move its merchandise to an average of six days from [the] 22 days it currently takes,” he adds.