Rwanda says Tanzanian rail option is cheaper, shorter than Kenya

Rwanda is focusing on developing proposed rail links to ports on the Indian Ocean through Tanzania first because it’s cheaper and shorter than a route transiting Kenya, Finance Minister Claver Gatete said.

Studies done by member states in the six-nation East African Community showed that the Tanzanian option would cost about $800 million to $900 million, Gatete said in an interview Thursday at the World Economic Forum on Africa in the capital, Kigali. The Kenyan project would cost $1 billion, he said.

“We are working on the Dar es Salaam one, which will be cheaper because it’s the shortest route,” Gatete said.

Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda in 2013 agreed to link up to the Kenyan port of Mombasa along a standard-gauge railway estimated to cost $13 billion. The project was scheduled to be completed by March 2018. The East African, a Nairobi-based newspaper, reported on May 3 that Rwanda was in talks with Tanzania and Burundi about a shared route through their countries instead, because Uganda’s plans to develop a link to its northern neighbor South Sudan would delaying the Rwandan portion of the project.

Kenya Snub

It’s the second time Kenyan may lose out on plans to develop regional infrastructure. Last month, Tanzanian President John Magufuli secured an agreement to have a pipeline in western Uganda routed to its port of Tanga. That scuppered an accord between Kenya and Uganda in October 2015 for the conduit to pass through northern Kenya to a proposed port at Lamu.

The railway route via Tanzania will link Kigali to a port in Tanzania’s commercial capital, Dar es Salaam, according to the project’s website. A new railway is being built from Isaka in northwestern Tanzania to Kigali, with a branch to Musongati in neighboring Burundi. The existing railway from Dar es Salaam to Isaka is being upgraded.

Gatete said Rwanda planned to continue using ports in both Tanzania and Kenya.

“Our trade goes through Dar es Salaam and Mombasa,” he said. “We will need both of them.”