The Tanzania-Zambia Railway Authority (TAZARA) is a viable venture that still has an important role to play in the future development of Zambia and Tanzania, the Chinese Ambassador to Zambia, Yang Youming has said. He observed that there was a bigger role for TAZARA to play in future, not only in social economic development, but also in terms of the relationships amongst the states of China, Tanzania and Zambia as well as in the relationship between China and Africa as a whole.
The Ambassador was speaking at New Kapiri-Mposhi recently, when he accompanied retired Professor Yang Jiemian from the Shanghai Institute for International Studies on a tour of TAZARA. The delegation took a ceremonial 20km test-ride from New Kapiri-Mposhi to Luanshimba. He also revealed that the Chinese government was still discussing with the Tanzanian and Zambian governments on how best to revive TAZARA and make it operate profitably.
“The three governments China, Tanzania and Zambia are still discussing together on how best to bring the railway line to life and make it run profitably, although it may take some time to arrive at lasting solutions to the challenges facing the railway,” Ambassador Yang stated.
Prof. Yang Jiemian, who is an expert in International Relations and Global Development, said the Chinese government attached great value to the symbolic importance of TAZARA. He led a five-man team of experts from the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, said TAZARA was a symbol for the realization of the China, Zambia and Tanzania co-operation as he disclosed that the team of International Relations experts was visiting Kapiri-Mposhi to have a feel of the line and get acquainted with operational challenges.
Prof. Yang said should the Zambian and Tanzanian governments wish to have trains with the same speed or faster than those trains in China, the Chinese people and government would be ready to do whatever the two nations ask them to do for TAZARA.
The TAZARA Railway, also called the Uhuru Railway or the Tanzam Railway, is a railroad in East Africa linking the port of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania with the town of Kapiri Mposhi in Zambia’s Central Province. The single-track railway is 1,860 km (1,160 mi) long and was built by the Tanzania-Zambia Railway Authority (TAZARA) from 1970 to 1975 as a turnkey project financed and supported by China. At the time of its completion, two years ahead of schedule, the TAZARA was the single longest railway in sub-Saharan Africa. At the cost of US $500 million to build, the TAZARA was the largest single foreign-aid project undertaken by China.
The governments of Tanzania, Zambia and China built the railway to eliminate landlocked Zambia’s economic dependence on Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and South Africa, both of which were ruled by white-minority governments (back then). The railway provided the only route for bulk trade from Zambia’s Copperbelt to reach the sea without having to transit white-ruled territories. The spirit of Pan-African socialism among the leaders of Tanzania and Zambia and the symbolism of China’s support for newly independent African countries gave rise to TAZARA’s designation as the “Great Uhuru Railway”, Uhuru being the Swahili word for Freedom.