The African Development Bank (AfDB) has made a commitment of $301 million to overhaul the Kampala-Malaba Meter Gauge Railway (MGR) in Uganda.
The railway line is part of the East African Community’s Northern Corridor linking the capital, Kampala, to Kenya’s coastal city of Mombasa.
The East African Community Railway Rehabilitation Support Project will bolster rail services and lower transportation costs in a region endowed with agricultural land, minerals, petroleum production and manufacturing.
The financing was approved on Wednesday by the Group’s Board of Directors. It consists of loans and grants from the Africa Development Bank and its concessional lending window, the African Development Fund.
The works entail the immediate rehabilitation of 265 km of MGR tracks between Malaba and Mukono, including the line to Jinja Pier and Port Bell on Lake Victoria.
The project incorporates training and skills development for the railway workforce. It will also integrate nature-based solutions, including tree planting, to enhance the climate resilience of the tracks.
During the Board approval, African Development Bank Group President Akinwumi Adesina said railway lines are critical to opening up the heartland of Africa, where there is immense agricultural and economic potential.
He stressed that rail tracks would be instrumental in linking rural-based Special Agricultural Processing Zones, which the African Development Bank is promoting, to markets and other vital logistics hubs.
“Railway lines should not simply connect ports to mines,” Adesina said, adding that it is heartening to see African governments investing in rail transport.
The Kampala-Malaba MGR is part of the multi-modal Northern Corridor route, which includes road transport from Mombasa in Kenya to landlocked Uganda and neighboring countries, including Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan and Eastern DR Congo.
The corridor also has maritime links with Lake Victoria’s inland waterways.
Rail is largely viewed as a safer and more affordable mode of transport than road, but currently, more than 90% of the traffic along the northern corridor is carried by road, with a mere 7% moving by rail because of poor infrastructure. As a result, transport costs along the corridor are comparatively high.
The project is expected to directly benefit roughly 1.2 million people, about 40% of them women.