Transnet SOC Ltd., South Africa’s state-owned ports and rail operator, is interested in a partnership with the Tanzania-Zambia Railway Authority, a spokesman for the Dar es Salaam-based company said.
Tazara, as the 1,860-kilometer (1,156-mile) network is known, has suffered from a lack of investment since it was built and funded through an interest-free loan from China in the 1970s. Volumes fell to a record low of 230,000 metric tons last year, and the Tanzanian and Zambian governments that jointly own the line want private investors to help improve operations.
“SMH Rail of Malaysia and Transnet of South Africa have shown very keen interest to partner with Tazara under different business models,” spokesman Conrad Simuchile said in an e-mailed response to questions yesterday. “We are talking to three other players on a different scale and under different partnership models.”
Tazara is optimistic that at least one proposal will be approved in the next three months, said Simuchile. Improving the rail network that links landlocked Zambia’s copper belt to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s port city, may benefit mines which rely on more expensive trucking for exports. Tazara signed a memorandum of understanding with a unit of Trafigura Beheer BV, the trading company, in January for track access.
“Transnet is looking at various opportunities in sub-Saharan Africa,” Mboniso Sigonyela, a spokesman for the state transport company in Johannesburg, said by e-mail. “At this stage it would be too early to discuss details and identities of the parties we are in talks with. However, most of these initiatives will eventually promote regional integration.”
SMH Rail didn’t immediately respond to e-mails seeking comment.