President Museveni will this week meet officials from the Works and Finance ministries to discuss progress on the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) and plans he conceived during a recent visit to Tanzania, Daily Monitor has learnt.
The President will expect the officials to table a comparative cost analysis of Uganda’s SGR in relation to Kenya and Tanzania’s costs.
The officials will also brief him on the infrastructure projects, particularly the ports at Bukasa, Port Bell and Jinja that are meant to connect Uganda to the Southern Corridor via Musoma Port on Lake Victoria to Tanga Port at the Indian Ocean, and the Central Corridor via Mwanza/Bukoba ports (on L. Victoria) to Dar es Salaam Port.
Sources say the officials were thrown into panic after Mr Museveni was told in Tanzania that the country’s planned SGR line was to cost significantly lower per kilometer than Uganda’s.
Works Minister Monica Azuba, however, insisted that the plans to work with Kenya on the SGR were ‘still on course’ although the government was ‘exploring alternatives’.
Ms Azuba said: “We are still working with Kenya. The President only expressed concern over the delay in extending the line from Nairobi to Malaba to Kampala. The Tanzanians also claimed they got theirs [railway] cheaper; and we are looking into that.”
Cost of rails
Every kilometer of rail, Mr Museveni was reportedly told, will cost Tanzania $1.5m (Uganda Shs5.6b), while Uganda’s is set to cost $7.3m (Shs25b) per kilometer.
The contract for the first phase of Uganda’s SGR to link Kampala and Malaba on the border with Kenya at a cost of $2.8b (Shs8t) was awarded to China Harbour Engineering Corporation (CHEC).
According to available cost projections, Uganda will buy a ton of cement at $180 (approx. Shs600,000) and steel at $700 (Shs2.47m), while Tanzania will spend $100 (Shs300,000) and $680 (Shs2.4m) on cement and steel, respectively.
Following the meeting with the President, Daily Monitor has learnt, officials travelled to Tanzania on a benchmarking mission, the results of which are expected to be tabled to the President this week.
President Museveni’s interest in the Tanzania route was whetted by the proposal by Tanzania to prioritise the 1,219km SGR line from Dar es Salaam to Mwanza port on Lake Victoria the Ugandan border, the sources said.
Inland water transport on Lake Victoria across ports Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania broke down almost a decade now, but by developing inland ports in Uganda, it can be revived. There has recently been talk of upgrading Port Bell and developing Bukasa ports in Kampala.
There are no concrete plans yet about when the construction of the ports could begin and financing plans for the ports are not as advanced as those for the SGR line between Kampala to Malaba.
The SGR construction is tentatively set to begin this year with the view of linking to the Kenya SGR to the Indian coast. The line from Mombasa Port to Nairobi is already complete, and Kenya is expected to embark on the line westwards to Malaba at about the same time Uganda’s could kick off.
But with the financing details for the SGR still not yet concretised between Uganda and China, and in light of a of seemingly cheaper alternative of just developing inland ports and banking on Tanzania’s SGR in the short and medium term, Mr Museveni’s meeting with the officials could come up with a landmark decision
Last year, Uganda snubbed Kenya and opted for the Tanzania route for the construction of the planned crude oil export pipeline.