Bonface Orucho, bird story agency
An announcement by the US White House in September shows further US and European support for a strategic railway linking regions rich in critical minerals in Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with a port in Angola.
The statement said that the US and EU were "teaming up" to support the development of the Lobito Corridor with a feasibility study for a new railway that would extend from northern Zambia to Lobito harbour in Angola's Benguela Province.
"This builds on the initial U.S.-led support to refurbish the railway section from the Lobito port in Angola to the Democratic Republic of the Congo" the Joint Statement from the United States and the European Union, issued by the White House, read.
The statement appears to take previous statements regarding the refurbishment of an existing line, further, to include new elements, or a new line altogether.
In the press statement made on the sidelines of the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII) event at the G20 in India, the White House emphasised the region's potential to leverage a modern railway for economic growth.
"The U.S.-EU partnership aims to upgrade critical infrastructure across sub-Saharan Africa, unlocking the enormous potential of this region," the statement said.
The announcement is the latest indication of growing US interest in the region. During the mid-May G7 Summit in Japan, the US Development Finance Corporation (DFC) unveiled funding of up to US$250 million for the comprehensive renovation of the main Lobito Atlantic rail system.
This corridor presents the fastest route from key mining areas in the two resource-rich nations, both with rapidly growing domestic markets, to the coast.
Presently, the existing Lobito railway spans nearly 1,300 kilometres across Angola, extending an additional 400 kilometers into the Democratic Republic of the Congo, reaching Kolwezi, the heart of the Copperbelt. As it stands, the rail system does not encompass Zambia. The plan for the new network includes an extension from Kolwezi to Lubumbashi in southern DRC, and ultimately into Zambia, according to Construct Africa.
Currently, copper, cobalt, and other metals are transported from the DRC and Zambia via lengthy routes through Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, Beira in Mozambique, or Durban in South Africa, resulting in significant delays.
"The new railway will substantially reduce average transport times, thereby lowering the logistics costs and carbon footprint associated with exporting metals, agricultural goods, and other products, as well as facilitating the future development of any mineral discoveries" the White House statement explained.
In July, Angola and the DRC transferred control of the Lobito rail corridor to Lobito Atlantic Railways, a consortium of private investors committed to an extensive rehabilitation to the tune of US$555 million over the next three decades.
A statement from Trafigura, a prominent player in the global commodities industry and a member of the consortium, indicated that the consortium's intent is to invest in rolling stock, procuring 1,555 wagons and 35 locomotives exclusively for the Angolan section of the corridor.
The DRC and Zambia together supply 10% of global copper, while the DRC produces some 70% of the world's cobalt, according to the UN. Both minerals are critical to the success of global commitments to reduce reliance on carbon-based power.
The International Energy Agency anticipates a three-to-sevenfold surge in demand for rare earth metals by 2040.
The White House statement also outlines plans for US-EU collaboration with the three African nations in three key areas: transport infrastructure investments, measures to facilitate trade and economic development, and support for inclusive and sustainable economic growth and capital investment revolving around investments in clean energy initiatives, digital accessibility, agriculture, and more.
According to the African Energy Consultancy, there are also suggestions the rail network could be expanded across the sub-region to the Tanzanian coast, establishing a connection between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.
A Southern African Research and Documentation Centre report estimates that earnings for the Angolan government from a functional Lobito Corridor would be more than US$2 billion over the 30 years of the concession, thanks to an increase in economic activity linked to the line.
bird story agency