Zambia Seeks Partners to Operate Rail Network, Airline

Companies from South Korea, Europe and the U.S. have expressed interest in helping run Zambia’s rail network, the government of Africa’s biggest copper producer said.

President Michael Sata’s government is still deciding if it will bring in a partner to help it operate the railway system, Mutaba Mwali, deputy minister for Transport Works, Supply and Communications, said in an interview yesterday.

“There’s a lot of interest,” he said in Lusaka, the capital. “There might be a need to look for potential co-operators.”

The government has committed $120 million to refurbishing railway infrastructure, which Sata said on Nov. 15 had “deteriorated beyond description”. He canceled the contract Railway Systems of Zambia and New Limpopo Bridge Projects Investment Ltd. had to operate a 1,200 kilometer (746 mile) stretch of the network in September. That venture was part owned by South African companies Nedbank Group Ltd., Old Mutual Plc and Sanlam Ltd.

Sata in November appointed Clive Chirwa, then an engineering professor at Bolton University in the U.K., as chief executive officer of Zambia Railways Ltd., the state-owned railway company.

Chirwa plans to refurbish the rail network over three years, which he said on Nov. 19 would cost $750 million.

‘Urgent Issue’

The government has also said it may seek companies to partner it in its efforts to get a national air carrier off the ground. Zambia Airways, a state-owned company, went bankrupt in 1994.

“Definitely, as a government and a country, we have seen that without a national airline we are disadvantaged,” Mwali said. Cabinet will probably make a decision on the re-introduction of a national airline “in the coming year”, he said.

“This is an urgent issue,” said Mwali.

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