The pact is of crucial importance to social and economic development of the people in the three countries, especially the landlocked Zambia which had been depending on the Dar es Salaam Port for routing its imports and exports via the Tanzania Zambia Railway (TAZARA) also known as the Great Uhuru Railway.
The 1,870-kms rail line from the Indian Ocean Port of Dar es Salaam to New Kapiri Mposhi in Zambia had been a vital and convenient route in transportation of copper to various parts of the world. However, for various reasons including competition and political threats - actual and imaginary - TAZARA had been thrown into a series of endless financial crises that severely decimated the capacity of the crucial transportation conduit.
It is, therefore, heartening to note that top executives from TAZARA, as well as Zambia Railways Limited (ZRL) and Societe- Nationale Des Chemins De Fer Du Congo Sarl (SNCC) - which are national railway operators for Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) respectively - signed a tripartite agreement to harmonise their operations to facilitate seamless movement of goods and passengers.
The agreement defines how the three railways will collaborate and interact with each other in terms of movement of goods and passengers through each other’s railway network without resorting to transshipment. With this agreement in place, cargo can now move in either direction and all the way from Dar es Salaam to New Kapiri-Mposhi and Lubumbashi and vice versa without necessarily transshipping, re-marshalling or face complications of any kind.
According to industry experts the pact has in fact widely opened the door for increased co-operation that will effectively link and serve customers in Lubumbashi, Zambia’s copperbelt and other central parts and Dar es Salaam. It is also hoped that the governments in the DRC, Tanzania and Zambia will see to it that obstacles in implementation of the pact are resolved. This should include efforts to revamp TAZARA cargo handling capacity severely deteriorated from 1.2 million tonnes annually in early 1990s to 630,000 tonnes in 2003 and only 533,000 tonnes in 2011.