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Uganda To Start Long-Delayed Construction Of Modern Railway This Year

The government had entered into partnership with a Chinese company in 2015 to begin the project, but ended the partnership due to a disagreement on funding.

A schoolgirl walks along the Kenya-Uganda railway line during the reopening of schools, after the government closed learning institutions due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Kibera slums of Nairobi, Kenya January 4, 2021. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

Uganda said on Thursday that work will finally start this year on its $2.2 billion Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), which is a positive development for the landlocked nation’s importers and exporters who have long had to bear exorbitant transportation expenses.

According to a statement from the Ministry of Works and Transport, the “Government of Uganda… is in advanced stages of engaging M/s Yapi Merkezi (Turkish firm) to undertake the development of the SGR eastern route. Plan is to commence construction this calendar year.”

Uganda and the Chinese company China Harbour and Engineering Company Ltd (CHEC) entered into a deal in 2015 to carry out the project under the condition that the company assist in obtaining funding for the railway from the Chinese government.

However, Uganda terminated the arrangement early this year and instead started negotiations with Yapi Merkezi to carry out the project after years of unsuccessful discussions with the Chinese on the funds.

The ministry stated that “sourcing for alternative financing from Europe is on-going.” It made no mention of the specific European donors that Uganda was wooing.

The 273 kilometre (170 mile) line will run from the Ugandan capital Kampala to Kenya’s border, where it is anticipated to connect with Kenya’s own Standard Gauge Railway line that leads to the coastal city of Mombasa on the Indian Ocean.

Uganda is relying on the railroad to increase the efficiency and reduce the price of carrying goods like coffee and tobacco. Currently, it depends on expensive, cumbersome road connections and a century-old, narrow-gauge rail line constructed by the former colonial power Britain.

Ozioma Samuel-Ugwuezi

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