THE Tanzania-Zambia Railways Authority (TAZARA) is lobbying for the cancellation of a staggering long-term debt to enable the firm to get fresh financial injection to normalise its operations.
TAZARA, which is a bi-national railway jointly owned by the governments, Tanzania and Zambia on an equal shareholding basis, was constructed by the People’s Republic of China after failure by the two governments to raise take-off funds for the mooted mammoth project in the 1960s.
TAZARA chief executive officer Bruno Ching’andu called on statekholders for the cancellation of the over US$700 million debt, saying this is the only way to revamp the railway system, which is still struggling in its operations.
“The debts which the authority acquired in the past have negatively affected the operations of the authority. But, if these debts could be [cancelled], the institution can to get back to its normal operations.
“If we are to include debts for the constructions, the authority owes a total of US$700 million. But the most critical debt that we have is amounting to US$165 million,” Mr Ching’andu said.
He also said that with the current situation, TAZARA is unable to acquire financial assistance in form of loans from financial institutions making it impossible to capitalise the authority.
He said this has impacted negatively on the authority’s operations and further urged the two governments to look into the matter.
“If the railway became fully operational, the cost of commodities can be low because it is cheaper to load cargo on rail than on the roads. Our roads can also be preserved unlike the current situation where the roads are being abused,” he said.
The 1,860 kilometre-rail runs from Tanzania and East Africa’s major seaport of Dar es Salaam into the heart of Zambia’s Central Province, terminating at New Kapiri Mposhi, where it is further linked by road and rail to Lusaka (about 200km), Zambia’s mining nerve centre, the Copperbelt Province (about 100km) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).