DR Congo Enhances Trade Connectivity with Railway Project
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has announced its intention to participate in East Africa’s Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) project, a trans-African railway initiative designed to link the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, facilitating improved regional trade and connectivity.
During the recent DRC-Uganda Joint Permanent Commission (JPC) meetings held in Kinshasa, it was agreed that Uganda would extend an invitation to DRC to attend the upcoming Northern Corridor Infrastructure Projects of SGR Cluster meeting.
According to the resolutions from the meeting, the DRC will appoint three engineers to represent the country in SGR Cluster meetings by December 30, 2023. Furthermore, DRC will share its SGR implementation schedule with Uganda to ensure alignment with Ugandan railway standards by March 2024. Both countries’ technical teams will conduct joint site visits at border points by the same date.
This decision to involve DRC in the railway project emerged during the SGR cluster meeting in Kampala in May 2023 when experts realized that the SGR lines planned by Uganda and Kenya ended at the DRC borders.
The 8th Session of JPC saw officials from Uganda, led by Rt. Hon. Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga, First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for East Africa Community Affairs, and ministers from DRC, led by Hon. Antipas Mbusa Nyamwisi, Minister for Regional Integration.
Tanzania has already completed feasibility studies and preliminary designs for Phase 2 of the SGR project, which includes constructing 506 km of the railway line from Tabora to Kigoma, connecting to Lake Tanganyika.
The meeting in Kinshasa was attended by 12 ministers from Uganda and 18 ministers from DRC.
While the DRC possesses vast natural resources, including copper, cobalt, gold, and the world’s second-largest rainforest, poor transport infrastructure and limited access to regional markets have hindered economic development. Experts believe that DRC’s involvement in the early stages of the SGR project will help secure funding and promote collaboration in feasibility studies.
Eng. Canon Perez Wamburu, the SGR Project coordinator, emphasized DRC’s significance as an East African Community member, stating that DRC’s participation would raise awareness about the project and potentially extend the railway deeper into the country.
These decisions in Kinshasa mark a significant step forward in enhancing trade relations between East and West African nations, with the potential to reduce transportation times for goods within the continent and to other regions. Currently, intra-African trade constitutes only about 15% of total African trade.
Amb Richard Kabonero, the Coordinator of the Northern Corridor Infrastructure Projects at Uganda’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stressed the importance of investing in infrastructure to unlock the region’s economic potential, ultimately reducing the cost of doing business, increasing trade, and stimulating economic growth.
In 2022, the East African Community (EAC) admitted the DRC, the fourth-largest country in Africa by population (95 million), to the regional economic bloc. The DRC is one of Uganda’s major trading partners in East Africa, with exports ranging from cement, palm oil, beer, sugar, iron and steel, rice, iron and steel (scrap), cocoa beans, to natural rubber. Trade between the two countries has steadily increased, with Uganda’s exports to DRC growing from $188.98 million in 2017 to $338.56 million in 2021.