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01.06.2005 Business & Finance

Plans to link African countries by rail underway

By Vanguard

FORMER managing director of the Nigerian Ports Authority and President of the African Business Round Table (ABRT), Dr Bamanga Tukur has said that it would soon become possible to move people and goods across Africa if a plan submitted to the British Commission is accepted.

Tukur's African Business Round Table has proposed the construction of a contiguous rail network which would commence in Abidjan (Cote d' voire), and link Accra (Ghana), Lome (Togo, Cotonou(Benin),and Lagos (Nigeria).

From Nigeria the connection will go northeast via Maiduguri (Nigeria), to N'djamena (Chad), Khartoum (Sudan), and southeast to Kampala (Uganda), Mombasa (Kenya), and Dar-es-salaam (Tanzania).

From Tanzania the link will join up with the existing Tanzam line which connects East Africa with Lusaka (Zambia) in Southern Africa.

According to Tukur, the existence of the railway caused the North American domestic market from Canada to Mexico - to flourish.

He explained that the problem of different gauges was overcome by suitable technology, adding that in Africa a similar approach could be employed where either most of the necessary structures already exist or there are only gaps which need closing.

He is of the opinion that it is possible to construct and finance the missing lines within the framework of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) via public-private partnerships (PPP) . The former Nigeria's minister of industry said that the ABRT had also concluded plans to meet the Nigerian President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo for discussion on the proposed criss-crossing Africa by rail.

"After all the railway is a vital necessity for Nigeria's economy," he added. The African Business Round Table is a non-governmental organisation that synergise with other similar groups across the African continent.

Similarly, the Ghanian government is currently negotiating with the British rail company United rail to fit into the overall picture for Africa.

The aim of the discussion Vanguard gathered is to rejuvenate the country's railway within the shortest time possible.

Besides, Ghana has undertaken other steps to revitalize its railway. For instance, it has begun redevelopment of the 30km long stretch of track from the capital Accra to the port of Tema as well as securing its funding.

The requisite bridge construction along the track are expected to be completed in October 2005. Furthermore, the governments of Ghana and Burkina-Faso have decided to create a rail link between the two countries.

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