Major Chinese Interests in Railways in Africa

Over the last 10 years, we can observe a growing interest of Chinese railway companies in Africa. Given a potential shift in US policy, I would expect that even more opportunities can be tapped by Chinese exporters.

Currently there are 3 fields they are interested in:

  • Railway lines which facilitate access to resource deposits or manufacturing sites such as the Tazara line and the Addis-Djbouti line in East Africa or the Benguela line in Southern Africa
  • Transit systems that can open up new markets such as the Addis light rail or the Abuja-Kaduna line
  • Rolling stock and other E&M equipment export such as the South Africa electric locomotive replacement program, rolling stock for Cameroon, orelectrification equipment for Ethiopia

In a CNN article published yesterday, further development plans in Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, South Sudan and Burundi that are part of the LAPSSET program are nicely mapped.

The most interesting aspect for me is the strategic and long term interests of China in the continent. Besides the financial investment, and the hope for repayment, China has created a solid export market to not only level but turn around the export deficit with the continent. At the same time, hundred thousands of Chinese have worked on the projects locally across Africa and have settled there after the projects’ end. The business driven Chinese take over more and more of the local economies, from simple trade business to farming. Furthermore, all projects have been designed and constructed according to Chinese standards and norms, thus guaranteeing a long lasting customers for maintenance and spare parts as well as predefining the norms for any future projects.

I tried to put the largest projects on an Africa map. Still, they have been active in over 1700 projects all across the continent through state funded projects, large construction companies but also rather small specialized organizations.

You can download my map under: Map of major Chinese Projects in Africa



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