New rail lines aim to transform African logistics

17 June 2021

Nigeria has opened a $1.5bn standard gauge railway line between Lagos and Ibadan to transport goods between Apapa Port and the southwestern hinterland.

President Muhammadu Buhari officially opened the line, the third to be commissioned in the last five years, following lines connecting Kaduna and Kano and Itakpe and Warri.

The 157km route runs from Apapa Port in Lagos, through Ogun State and before terminating in Oyo State capital Ibadan.

Buhari described the project as another milestone in Nigeria’s drive to establish rail as the prime means of transport for passengers and freight.

He said: “This vital line establishes an end-to-end logistics supply chain in railway transport within its short corridor, Lagos-Ibadan.

“Goods to the hinterland would now be transported by rail directly from the Apapa Port quayside straight to the Inland Container Depot located in Ibadan from where they can be distributed to other parts of the country.”

Buhari added the connection would position Nigerian ports as the ideal choice for landlocked neighbour Niger to import and export goods.

Building contractor China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), described the scheme as “the first modern double track standard gauge railway in West Africa”.

Trains are due to start running on the line from mid-June.

Meanwhile DP World, operator of the container terminal at Maputo Port, Mozambique, has launched a rail service between the port and Harare in Zimbabwe.

The service aims to reduce the transit time for containers travelling between Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

DP World said: “In the past, transit goods on their way to Harare would often have to be transported far greater distances by sea and road, but this route will give customers a new, direct, and faster option for delivery.”

Christian Roeder, chief executive of DP World-Maputo, said the service was key to driving more efficient logistics in the region.

“Through this service, which will facilitate and handle all port and border documentation, we can cut down transit times, give our customers better service and improve the connections between cities,” he said.

DP World recently opened a dry port facility at Komatipoort in South Africa where containers transported from Maputo under bond will undergo South African customs clearance.

South Africa has sub-Saharan Africa’s largest rail network, covering 36,000km, which accounts for 75% of the region’s total rail capacity. But the country’s railways have deteriorated over past decades due to lack of investment and corruption. 

However, there has been a wave of railway building over the last five years on the continent, including the launch of a 472km standard gauge line linking Kenya’s Port of Mombasa to the country’s capital Nairobi in June 2017.

The line has led to a 50% fall in the cost of transporting a 20ft container from the port to Nairobi’s newly launched Nairobi Inland Container Depot.

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