Uganda will finally start work this year on its $2.2 billion Standard Gauge Railway (SGR). The move will especially benefit the nation’s importers and exporters who have long had to bear exorbitant transportation expenses.
The “Government of Uganda… is in advanced stages of engaging M/s Yapi Merkezi (Turkish firm) to undertake the development of the SGR eastern route. Plan is to commence construction this calendar year,” according to a statement from the Ministry of Works and Transport.
The project is in partnership with the Ugandan government and the Chinese company China Harbour and Engineering Company Ltd (CHEC), since they struck a deal in 2015. The partnership was made under the condition that the Chinese company will assist in obtaining funding for the railway from the Chinese government.
However, Uganda terminated the arrangement early this year and instead started negotiations with Yapi Merkezi to carry out the project after years of unsuccessful discussions with the Chinese on the funds.
The ministry stated in the statement that “sourcing for alternative financing from Europe is on-going.” It made no mention of the specific European donors that Uganda was courting.
The railway project is a 273 km (170 mile) line which will run from the Ugandan capital Kampala to the neighboring Kenya’s border. There it will connect with Kenya’s own Standard Gauge Railway line that leads to the port city of Mombasa on the Indian Ocean.
Uganda is relying on the railway to increase the efficiency and reduce the price of delivering exports like coffee and tobacco. Currently, it is dependent on expensive, sluggish road connections and a century-old, narrow-gauge rail line constructed by the former colonial power, Britain.