US And EU Look To Accelerate Lobito Corridor Expansion

The US and EU will launch the feasibility study for the Zambia line.

By Sneha A on
13th September 2023

The European Union and the White House have teamed up to accelerate the expansion of the Lobito transport corridor by launching feasibility studies for a greenfield railway line between Zambia and Angola. 

The news follows the commitment earlier this year between the governments of Angola, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to extend the Lobito Corridor, connecting southern DRC and northwestern Zambia to regional and global trade markets via the Port of Lobito in Angola.

"As an immediate next step, the United States and the European Union will support the governments in launching pre-feasibility studies for the construction of the new Zambia-Lobito railway line from eastern Angola through northern Zambia," the White House said in a statement on 9 September.

The Zambia line would link Luacano in eastern Angola to Chingola in Zambia's copperbelt province.

The Lobito Corridor serves as pathway for the open movement of goods and services, providing an alternative route to export markets from traditional road networks. In particular, it links key mining regions to the sea.

The Lobito Corridor infrastructure encompasses the Benguela railway line, the Port of Lobito, and border facilities between Zambia and Angola, and Angola and the DRC.

The Benguela railway extends for almost 1,300km from Lobito port in western Angola to Luau in the east and close to the border of the DRC. It then continues for 400km into the DRC, linking to Kolwezi, a mining hub. The railway also connects with the rail network run by the National Railway Society of the Congo (SNCC). 

Lobito Corridor
Lobito Corridor Railway And Proposed New Line
Source: The White House

Earlier this year, the US announced it was performing due diligence for a potential initial US$250 million financing package to support the upgrading of the Lobito Corridor from Angola to the DRC border.

In July, the Lobito Corridor was handed over to concessionaire Lobito Atlantic Railway, which will operate, manage and maintain the rail infrastructure for the next 30 years.

Lobito Atlantic Railway is a consortium comprising Singapore-based trading and logistics firm Trafigura, (49.5%), Portuguese contractor Mota-Engil (49.4%) and Belgian rail operator Vecturis (1%).

The concession holder has committed to investing in the rail infrastructure to improve the capacity and safety of the Lobito Corridor, as well as acquiring significant new rolling stock for expanded freight operations.

Overall, Lobito Atlantic Railway plans to invest US$455 million in Angola and up to US$100 million in the DRC. This includes securing 1,555 wagons and 35 locomotives for the Angolan side of the corridor alone.

Further proposals to expand the Lobito Corridor across the continent to Tanzania and, ultimately, the Indian Ocean are also being discussed.

During an online media briefing with journalists, Helaina Matza, acting special coordinator for the US' Partnership on Global Infrastructure Investment said, "We’ve been working in really close coordination with all three governments and potential contract supporters and our European partners on moving to feasibility as soon as possible. We’re hoping in the next couple weeks, with, of course, our government partners in tow with us, that we’ll be able to negotiate the last elements of what we would really need to be able to do to be able to embark on a full feasibility, which will inform the rest of the project."

She added that efforts were already underway in Zambia to find opportunities to connect feeder roads to the railway that would benefit both agricultural and mining businesses.

Top photo: Railway track (© Hxdylzj | Dreamstime)

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