The East African nation of Tanzania has signed a contract with two Chinese firms for the design and construction of a 341-kilometer single-track electrified standard gauge railway line.

The $1.32-billion contract has been awarded to China Civil Engineering Construction Corp. and China Railway Construction Corp. after they edged out 18 international bidders for the tender advertised by Tanzania Railway Corp. in August 2020.

The contract was signed on Jan. 8 by Tanzania’s Foreign Affairs Minister Palamagamba Kabudi and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi. The railway line will be constructed over a 36-month period, although no start date has been confirmed yet.

Tanzania Railways Corp. managing director Masanja Kadogosa stated that the new contract “is a continuation of the ongoing construction of a modern railway, for which a tender was advertised and more than 18 international companies submitted bids.”

The Mwanza-Isaka line will consist of continuously welded rail on an alignment adjacent to the existing line, 15 meters away.

Passenger and freight train speeds on the line have been designed for 160 km/hr and 120 km/hr respectively. The trains plying the new railway line, with an axle of 35 tonnes, will be 2000 m long and are expected to carry 1.1 million passengers annually.

The Mwanza to Isaka railway section is Lot 5 of the new 1596-km SGR that Tanzania is constructing to ease freight movement between the Indian Ocean port of Dar es Salaam to Rwanda, Burundi and eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. These countries will be linked by road to Isaka where the new railway line will terminate for now.

Contract for Lot 1, Dar es Salaam-Morogoro (300 km) and Lot 2, Morogoro-Makutupora (422 km) had been awarded to Turkish construction firm Yapi Merkezi Insaat VE Sanayi AS in 2017 and 2019 respectively, and construction is ongoing. However, Tanzania is yet to advertise tenders for Lot 3 Makutupora-Tabora (371km) and Tabora-Isaka (162km) of the railway line.

Tanzania will finance the Mwanza-Isaka line after the Ministry of Finance in June this year allocated $897 million. Additional financing from the government is expected in the next financial year.

Moreover, Tanzania, with $200 million in World Bank financing, is rehabilitating and upgrading sections of the 2560-km line under the Tanzania Intermodal and Rail Project. The meter gauge line, just like the SGR, originates at the port of Dar es Salaam and terminates at Isaka with a road link to Rwanda, Burundi and Democratic Republic of Congo.

In a separate Africa move by foreign investors in the clean energy sector, Italian renewables developer Enel Green Power signed an agreement with Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) to jointly finance, buld and operate projects in South Africa and Zambia

QIA will acquire 50% of the stake that Enel Green Power holds in two complete and operational wind and solar projects in the two countries, and four others  under construction, with a combined capacity of 769MW.

The Qatar group says it is "committed to supporting the transition to a low-carbon future, and we believe this investment can make a significant environmental and social impact,” said QIA CEO Mansoor bin Ebrahim Al-Mahmoud.

In Zambia, QIA will acquire its share in the 34MW Ngonye PV plant while in South Africa the Qatar agency will acquire the share in the 148MW Nxuba wind farm. The projects were developed at a cost of US$40 million and US$175 million respectively.

Additionally, QIA acquires a 50% stake in four onshore wind farm projects of Garob (145MW), Karusa (147MW), Soewater (147MW) and Oyster Bay (148MW) all with a combined investment value of US$949 million. Wind energy equipment makers Acciona and Vestas are providing a total of 165 turbines for the four projects.

The acquisition agreement awaits approval and antitrust clearance from South Africa, Zambia and Qatar regulatory authorities before taking effect.

Enel has seven other wind and solar PV plants in South Africa, with total capacity of 522MW that do not involve Qatar.