Transport: railway of hope.

Position:REGIONAL FOCUS: Angola

The most obvious means of diversifying the Angolan economy is greater cross-border trade with neighbouring states and probably the most important source of cross-border trade will be the revamped Benguela Railway.

In the colonial era, the line was used to transport mining exports from Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Zambia through Angola to the Port of Lobito. However, the line was repeatedly targeted during the civil war and exporters switched to using Durban, Dar es Salaam and other ports in the Southern African Development region.

Luanda has already funded the rehabilitation of the main section of the Benguela line that runs east-west through its territory and this work is now approaching completion. According to the Angolan official state news agency, the Benguela Railway is now operational as far as 20 km from the border with DR Congo.

It is hoped that this will encourage investment in agricultural production in the east of Angola, with exports transported to Lobito via the railway, although a more likely source of anchor income for the railway in the short term will be copper and other mining commodities from the two neighbouring states.

In February, Luanda, Kinshasa and Lusaka concluded a deal for Benguela Railroad (CFB), Societe Nationale des Chemins de Fer du Congo (SNCC) and Zambia Railways Limited (ZRL) to jointly maintain and operate the two branches into Zambia and DR Congo. The relevant border crossings will also be redeveloped in order to speed up the processing of cargo.

The Zambian extension will be operated and probably also developed by South African firm Grindrod and Northwest Rail Company (NWR) of Zambia, although the government of DR Congo has not yet revealed whether state, private sector rail or mining investors will develop the DR Congo extension.

The Angolan Transport Minister, Augusto Tomas, announced in February that 120bn kwanzas ($1.247bn) will be invested in the Port of Lobito to complement the rail redevelopment, including in container, dry bulk and fuel facilities, although it is not yet clear how much of this money will be provided by the private sector.

Tomas said: "This investment will make the port of Lobito more competitive, provide it with greater capacity and safety as well as making it a more active player in the internationalisation of Angolan companies and the Angolan economy."

The government hopes that Lobito will benefit from the investment in the same way as Luanda has taken advantage of...

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