A consortium involving commodity trader Trafigura will invest more than $555 million in a railway project connecting the Angolan port of Lobito to Kolwezi, a mining town in the heart of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s copper belt, it said in a statement.
Congo, Africa’s biggest copper producer, currently exports copper, cobalt and other metals in trucks via Tanzania or South Africa. The journey can take several months because of congestion and customs delays.
The consortium will invest $455 million in Angola and $100 million in Congo in the 1,300-kilometre Lobito Atlantic Railway Corridor, with prospects for an extension into Zambia, it said.
Angola awarded the 30-year concession to the consortium in July last year. Geneva-based Trafigura and global construction firm Mota-Engil Engenharia e Construcao Africa each hold a 49.5% stake in the consortium, with rail operator Vecturis holding the remaining 1%.
The concession can be extended by 20 years if the consortium also decides to build a rail link between Luacano in Angola and the Zambian border town of Jimbe.
The presidents of Angola, Congo and Zambia inaugurated the project at a ceremony in Lobito on Tuesday.
“The full operation of this corridor will open up mines in Zambia and Congo and facilitate the circulation of essential inputs for both the mining and agricultural industries,” Congo President Felix Tshisekedi said at the ceremony.
The rail link, which builds on and improves existing local lines, is expected to increase the daily frequency of trains and create 1,600 direct jobs over the next 30 years, according to Congo’s presidency.
It is expected to carry 1.7 million tonnes of cargo annually by its fifth year of operation, 3 million tonnes by the 10th year and 5 million tonnes by the 20th year, Trafigura said.
(By Sonia Rolley, Miguel Gomes and Benoit Nyemba; Editing by Sofia Christensen and David Holmes)