THE Chinese government has given the financially crippled Tanzania-Zambia Railways Authority (TAZARA) US$39 million interest-free loan to revive its operations, Communication and Transport Minister Geoffrey Lungwangwa has said. Professor Lungwangwa said part of the funds, apart from reviving operations, would be for the procurement of six new locomotive engines, four wagons and the repairing of 120 wagons.
In an interview in Lusaka yesterday, Prof Lungwangwa explained that the decision to fund TAZARA was arrived at during a meeting which was held in China last month at which Zambia and Tanzania signed the 14th protocol with the Chinese government to provide US$39 million interest-free loan.
Prof Lungwangwa said the funds would also be used to repair the railway line and the purchase of new equipment for the workshop aimed at bringing about efficiency in the company’s operations. “I can confirm that the Chinese government has provided us with US$39 million loan and we will not pay any interest. This is good news for us and we will work towards improving the operations of the company,” he said.
The minister said since the country’s economy was growing, it would require a reliable railway line to match with the increased production of copper and agricultural activities in various parts of Zambia. He paid tribute to the Chinese Government for the support to Zambia’s various development programmes and TAZARA in particular and that the loan would help the company operate effectively.
He said a team of experts from China would soon be dispatched to work with the TAZARA management to evaluate its viability and to carry out a comprehensive study on how it could link other countries through the railway network.
Prof Lungwangwa reiterated his Government’s commitment to contributing to the development of the country through infrastructure development, among others. Last month Zambia, Tanzania and the Chinese governments met in China to discuss the possible funding of TAZARA.
Chinese Ambassador to Zambia Li Qiangmin said he was confident the negotiating teams would reach a conclusion and reiterated his government’s commitment to supporting Zambian programmes aimed at contributing to the economy. Mr Li said the financing of TAZARA was a clear testimony of the good bilateral relations that his country and Zambia have enjoyed over the years, which have continued to grow.
President Rupiah Banda and his Tanzanian counterpart Jakaya Kikwete had earlier appealed to creditors to cancel TAZARA debts to rescue the railway firm from collapse. The two leaders further called on the board of directors to expedite the process of concessioning management and operations of the railway company to a competent railway enterprise from China.
The railway line, built in the early 1970s through the assistance of the People’s Republic of China, is seen as the icon of friendship between the three partner States, China, Tanzania and Zambia. The railway also facilitated the opening of trade links between Tanzania and other landlocked neighbouring countries.
[Times of Zambia]