Tuesday, November 4, 2008

$4bn railway to link Burundi with neighbours

Landlocked Burundi and Rwanda will start work next year to build a 691 km railway line connecting both countries to Tanzania, Burundi's transport minister Philippe Njoni said on Monday.

Work on the line, which will cost an estimated $4-billion, will take five years.

"The main objective of this project is to reduce the cost of imported merchandise," he told Reuters.

"Economic studies showed that the railway will lower the cost of transport of merchandise from 40% (of total costs) to 5%."

Construction will be funded by Burundi, Rwanda and donors, the minister said, adding that both countries will work with Tanzania to seek finance.

Discussions have started with the African Development Bank, which financed the feasibility studies, he said. The railway will aid exports of the tiny central African nation's main hard currency earner, coffee. It will also help movement of minerals such as nickel through Dar es Salaam and Mombasa ports.

"Burundi will be able to easily export 15,000 tonnes of coffee in a very short period of time. The project presents a great advantage on the economic plan of our respective countries," he said.