By Spy Uganda Correspondent
Tanzania and Burundi have signed an agreement to build a $900 million railway that will connect the neighbouring East African nations.
The two sides signed a memorandum of understanding to construct a 282-kilometre (175-mile) line from the western Tanzanian town of Uvinza to Burundi’s capital Gitega. Finance and transport ministers from the two countries signed the deal in the western Tanzanian town of Kigoma on Sunday, Tanzania’s finance ministry said in a statement.
Tanzania, which wants to become a regional trade and transport hub, is building a standard gauge railway line to connect the port of Dar es Salaam to landlocked neighbours, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The two governments will jointly seek financing for the railway, Tanzania Finance Minister Mwigulu Nchemba said, adding that the final cost “will likely not exceed $900 million.” He didn’t provide details on the source of financing.
These come a few months after the president of Tanzania visited Burundi for a two-day official visit to rekindle bilateral ties with its northwestern neighbour.
“I have come to Burundi to sustain long-standing relations between our countries,” said Samia Suluhu Hassan after holding private talks with her Burundian counterpart Evariste Ndayishimiye in the city of Bujumbura.
Hassan noted that she had come to Burundi for four reasons, and particularly to scale up bilateral cooperation, assuring her Burundian counterpart of her country’s commitment to promoting and strengthening the existing bilateral cooperation.
Burundi is a strategic partner of Tanzania in trade and other areas. The small country, which has suffered decades of civil strife, depends on Tanzania for transportation of more than 80% of its goods through the Dar es Salaam port on the Indian Ocean coast.
Available statistics show that the trade volume between Tanzania and Burundi has increased from over $36 million in 2015 to more than $86 million in 2019, with at least 95% of Burundian cargo imported and exported through Dar es Salaam.
Earlier this year, the two countries resolved to strengthen cooperation in strategic areas, including economic infrastructure, to ease the transportation of people and goods.
According to Hassan, the Tanzania Investment Centre (TIC) — which oversees local and foreign direct investment, has registered 18 Burundian projects worth $209.4 million and employs 3,544 Tanzanians.