Becoming the hub of Africa’s rail revolution

Uganda’s transport links are set for a major overhaul with the launch of a key regional project.

East Africa’s railroads have long been the subject of romance and intrigue. Reaching Kampala in 1903, creating a vital link to the Indian Ocean Port of Mombasa, the railroad famously carried President Theodore Roosevelt during the Smithsonian-Roosevelt African Expedition in 1909-10. It was also widely used during the filming of the 1985 movie ‘Out of Africa’.

However over recent decades the rail network has seen little investment, with just 20% of Uganda’s rail network operational today and just 3 percent of freight transported by rail. “The current railway was built in 1900. It is a museum piece by any standards,” states Uganda’s Minister for Works and Transport, Eng. John Byabagambi.
Nevertheless in November 2013, the foundation stone was laid by President Kenyatta of Kenya for the first stage of a regional, multi-billion dollar standard gauge railway project linking East Africa with Uganda as its hub.

In May 2014 the Standard Gauge Railway Protocol was signed by the four nations. The project will initially link Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and South Sudan, with extensions to DR Congo, Burundi and Ethiopia also being planned. The first phase of the project from Mombasa to Nairobi will be completed in March 2018.

This railway is just the beginning of a revolution in connecting Africa to the world.

Augustine Mugisa Chairman of the Standard Gauge Railway Project’s technical committee

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“Out of the 3,000km, approximately 1,600km falls in Uganda, so Uganda has a connecting role for the entire region,” highlights Dr. Augustine Mugisa, chairman of the Standard Gauge Railway Project’s technical committee.

The project will have a huge impact on trade and logistics, with the maximum speed on the line raised from the current 12 mph to up to 120 mph, and it is expected to be a key driver for regional integration as well as opening Uganda and East Africa up to the global market.

“It currently takes 10 days for cargo to travel from Mombasa to Kampala,” asserts Dr. Mugisa. “This will be reduced to one day with this rail link. This project is just the beginning of a revolution in connecting Africa to the world”.


This article was published 13 October 2015
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