Uganda, Tanzania commit to opening up Port Bell-Mwanza-Dar route

Uganda and Tanzania are committing to opening up the multi-track Dar-es-Salaam-Mwanza-Port Bell transportation sector , which if ink to paper comes to reality will see infrastructure works on ports, inland waterways and railways on the route.

The way from Dar port on the Indian coast to Kampala Uganda is a 1, 800 km stretch that has sections of rail, water and road.

According to the Memorundum of Understanding (MoU) signed between Prof. Makame Mbarawa, Tanzania’s minister of Works, transport & Communications and Aggrey Bagiire, Uganda’s State Minister for Works & Transport, the two countries committed to a “Joint Ministerial Co-operation for Improvement of Ports, Lake Victoria Inland Waterways and Railway Transport Services.”

The route hitherto plagues by poor infrastructure could potentially be Uganda’s alternative way to the sea. Possibly Uganda’s second link to the sea via Dar es Salaam,  starts at Port Bell on the shores of Lake Victoria where Ugandan goods can be transported by ship/ferry to Tanzania’s northern Lake Victoria Town of  Mwanza. Once good arrive in Mwanza, they can then be taken down to Dar by railway.

For this route to work efficiently for Uganda, key infrastructure required include: an efficient and capacitated Dar-es Salaam port, a good and efficient railway connection between Dar and Mwanza, a reliable ship/ferry system  between Mwanza and Port Bell, and a functional inland port in Uganda at Port Bell, and an operational railway link between Port Bell and Kampala.

At the moment, Uganda’s inland ICD at Port Bell is dysfunctional, the railways connection between Kampala and Port Bell is out of use. At the moment only two ferries are functional between Mwanza and Port Bell. On the other hand, the railway line between Dar and Mwanza is the  100 year old line.

Mbarawe said Tanzania and Uganda are committed to providing additional ferries on Lake Victoria. The Government of Tanzania is currently working with Tanzania Ports Authority to develop the Dar-es-Salam port to increase its capacity and efficiency. Tanzania is also building the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) from Dar to Mwanza, which is expected to deliver cargo from the Port of Dar-es-Salaam to Mwanza within 11 hours. Cargo can then take about 10-11 hrs by ferry to Port Bell.

“Therefore cargo should take a maximum of 24 hours to move from the Port of Dar-es-Salaam to Kampala,” the Tanzanian minister said.

Mbarawe said this is part of the wider scheme that Tanzania has to developing the roads, ports and railways to facilitate transport of goods and stimulate economic activities between the two countries and the region.

On the Ugandan part, Aggrey Bagiire said the Government of Uganda is building a new inland port at Bukasa, south east of Kampala;  plans to rehabilitate the 11 km road from Port Bell to Kampala and to refurbish some 250 Uganda Railways train wagons to service transportation of goods over Lake Victoria.

Bagiire raised with the Tanzanian authorities the issue of high Road User charges for trucks from Uganda where Tanzania currently levies $500 for each truck while Uganda charges only $40 per truck from Tanzania. He said the high charges inhibit the use of the port of Dar es Salaam by Ugandan trades since it increases the cost of transportation. He appealed to the Tanzanian Government to consider revising the rates downwards, hence lowering the cost of cargo transportation through the Port of Dar-es-Salaam in order to attract more traders to use the Port.

He also appealed to the Government of Tanzania to expedite the process of joining the One Area Network, which will also contribute to reduction in the cost of doing business. Currently, he noted, it is very costly to make telephone calls between Uganda and Tanzania because the latter is not on the One Area Network, like Kenya and Rwanda.

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