THE World Food Programme (WFP) is optimistic more players will follow its lead in using the recently opened raillake- rail on Lake Victoria from Mwanza to Port Bell in Uganda as it has proved to be time and cost effective.
A shipment of 18 train wagons of vegetable oil destined for WFP operations in Uganda in June marked the reopening of the Mwanza- Port bell link on Lake Victoria which remained inactive for over 10 years since 2007.
It is expected the new multimodal route to be plied by Tanzanian ferry, MV Umoja will ease transportation of exports and imports between Uganda and Tanzania at a much reduced cost and time.
According to WFP, the route cuts transit time by over 50 per cent and costs by 40 per cent, which means the UN organisation can now get food more quickly to those in need in neighbouring, landlocked countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan.
The opening of the Lake Victoria corridor will lead to opening of an economic corridor for the East African region which will help attract public and private sector investment, the Head of Supply Chain for WFP Tanzania Office, Riaz Lodhi told the Business Standard in an interview.
“WFP opens the corridor the private sector follows...You mark my words. In the months to come, the private sector will follow,” he said.
After the first shipment which marked the re-opening of the route, WFP has sent six more shipments as it continued to benefit from improved efficiency in terms of time and cost provided by the new route.
According to Mr Lodhi, one shipment contains of more than 800 tonnes of cargo which would have required use of 27 trucks with carrying capacity of 30 tonnes each.
The Acting General Manager for Marine Services Company Limited Erick Hamis is quoted in a WFP magazine as saying the route will provide economic advantages for those who in Mwanza while also boosting trade between Tanzania and Uganda. “Seeing a reputable international organisation such as WFP using the route has already enticed other traders.
We have received a number of inquiries from people who are excited to get on board,” he said.
The rail/ferry network on Lake Victoria was in such a state of disrepair that most cargo were transported by road around the lake.
It was reopened in June after Tanzania and Uganda signed a Memorandum of Understanding last year on joint ministerial cooperation and improvement of ports, inland waterways and railway transport in order to increase transit trade.
The agreement establishes the re-opening of multi-modal transport through the use of trains and wagon ferry services.
The Central Corridor that starts from Dar es Salaam port in Tanzania to the hinterland includes routes in Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Tanzania has already provided MV Umoja while Uganda already has got MV Kaawa with each marine vessel carrying 880 tonnes of cargo per trip and are capable of making eleven voyages in one month.