Finance ministers Dr Mwigulu Nchemba, Nicolas Kazadi of the DRC and Dr Domitien Ndihokubwayo of Burundi conducted the talks on the sidelines of spring meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) governing board here over the weekend.
While details of the plan weren’t made clear, a related plan by Tanzania and Rwanda to extend the SGR line to Kigali and then to Rubavu on the border with the DRC, but plans dating late 2019 have it that the first phase of joint construction will extend from Kigoma to the Burundian capital of Gitega (located in central Burundi), total stretch of 240 km.
It is expected that there will be further extensions to eastern DRC, meanwhile as separate negotiations for SGR extension to Rwanda (from Isaka to Kigali) were in the final stages at that time, on the basis of affirmation from the UK weekly, The Economist.
Both countries were seeking financing for the project, with an estimated cost of $2.5bn., with the project gaining impetus in the wake of DRC President Felix Tshisekedi making a visit to Dar es Salaam, after giving the green light for a feasibility study to be carried out to pave the way for the stretch to its eastern border.
At that time extension of the SGR to Rubavu was expected to be constructed from Kigali, adding to the detailed design for extending the line from Isaka to Kigali, covering 575km. Now it appears that Burundi may extend the line from Gitega to Bujumbura in the western part of the country, and onward to Uvira, a DRC resort town on the northern shores of Lake Tanganyika.
By late 2019 Tanzania was expected to line up $1.3bn and Rwanda find $1.2bn to take the line to Kigali, and mount other expenses to cover the extended line to Rubavu, a resort town on the border with DRC.
Speaking after the meeting in Washington, Dr Nchemba said the railway would facilitate freight, passenger transport and promote trade and industrial development of those countries, underlining that it was a massive project so the participating countries were seeking loans from various sources, plus allocating budget funds to start construction work.
Nnenna Nwabufo, the AfDB director general for East Africa said that the bank recognizes the importance of the project, as it cements economic ties in the East African Community bloc, while enhancing prospects of political stability in these countries.
She promised that her bank would actively participate in ensuring that the project is built for the benefit of the people of those countries as well as for the economic development of the participating countries in the construction of this important project.
The Uvinza–Musongati–Gitega stretch links the town of Uvinza in northwest Tanzania to the Burundian capital of Gitega, crossing from Msongati in Kigoma Region, to its namesake town across the border, a 242.5 km (151 miles) stretch from Uvinza.
From that point the line is extended by 51 km (32 miles) to Gitega, an earlier design which did not include the projection to Bujumbura and Uvira nearby, as an easier connection to DRC, analysts noted.