WhyAfrica follows the Benguela railway into the heart of Angola
As part of our 2023 Road Trip, WhyAfrica recently took a 300km drive alongside the much talked about Benguela railroad in the Moxico Province of Angola to find out more about one of the most important infrastructure developments in the Southern Africa region, and to see the historic route with our own eyes.
By Leon Louw owner of WhyAfrica and editor of the WhyAfrica magazine.
Over the last year or two there has been a lot of talk and a lot of media articles about the revival of the historic Benguela railway and the development of the Lobito Corridor in Angola. This development will be a watershed for the entire region, including the copper mining industry in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Zambia and for other minerals in Namibia and Angola as it will provide easy access to the Atlantic Ocean on the west coast of Africa.
Railway and port development in Angola is fundamental not only for the development of Angola’s economy but for the entire Southern Africa region.
Despite all the interest in the Benguela and Lobito project, it seemed that very few people have actually been there. So, with the backing and assistance of WhyAfrica’s primary sponsor Remote Exploration Services (RES), specialists in operating in the most remote regions of Africa, we decided to drive from the Chavuma border post in Western Zambia through the Moxico Province of Angola to follow part of the historic Benguela railroad, and to find out more about ongoing projects to upgrade and develop the Lobito Corridor.
Getting there was a great adventure, and driving alongside this famous and iconic railroad was even more exhilarating. It was clear that the railroad is already being used and there are several development projects along the way.
History of destruction (WhyAfrica follows the Benguela railway into the heart of Angola)
During the Angolan Civil War in the late 1990’s the line was damaged beyond repair. There are still ample signs of the destruction. Rusted carriages, old locomotives, and twisted and turned steel carcasses have found their identity alongside an almost brand-new rail line.
The Angolan Civil War ended in 2002 and the Benguela railway was reconstructed between 2006 and 2014 by the China Railway Construction Corporation at a cost of USD1.83- billion. Trains reached Huambo again in 2011, Kuito in 2012, and Luau near the Congolese border in 2013. The rebuilt railway was formally inaugurated in February 2015.
On 5 March 2018, ore transport was restarted from the Tenke Fungurume Mine, in the DRC, from where copper and cobalt are extracted, and the cargo transported to the Port of Lobito. From that date the railway went into full operation, connecting the city of Tenke to the city of Lobito (source: Wikipedia).
In April 2023 the Angolan government confirmed funding to build a new 260km railway from Luena on the Benguela Railway to Saurimo, the capital of Lunda Sul province.
WhyAfrica will feature several articles about our adventures to get to the Benguela railway, how we followed it for almost 300km, and more about developments and the strategic significance of this project. Remember, if you become a WhyAfrica member you will have access to all the information, articles, and updates. To become a member click here: https://www.whyafrica.co.za/product/membership/
We have many images and videos of the adventure which we will publish on the WhyAfrica YouTube channel and Instagram accounts next month, so it will be of great value to you to subscribe to these platforms.
Railways key to develop Angola’s economy (WhyAfrica follows the Benguela railway into the heart of Angola)
According to Manuel Francisco Pedro (MFP), Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Special Economic Zone of Luanda-Bengo (ZEE) of Angola, railways are a key sector for the development of the Angolan economy. Pedro says that the Lobito, Luanda and Moçâmedes rail corridors will be awarded concessions to private entities.
Luanda railroad will have to rebuild the 215-kilometre section between Zenza do Itombe and Cacusso, with the project to expand the railroad to the Lundas to link it to the DRC.
The Benguela railroad will be fundamental in transporting goods to Zambia and the DRC and will also transport goods from these countries to the port of Lobito. The concession of this corridor is expected to generate USD2-billion in revenue for the Angolan state and provide numerous great opportunities for private investors.
The Moçâmedes Railroad will follow the same privatisation model, with concessions to private companies, in a structure that is pivotal to transporting minerals from Cuando Cubango province. The project also includes extending the rail line to the borders with Namibia and Zambia.
Port development in Angola (WhyAfrica follows the Benguela railway into the heart of Angola)
The Port of Luanda is undergoing renovations to work with the new Luanda International Airport and road structures in the country’s capital. The future deep-water port of Barra do Dande, about 50km north of Luanda and very close to the new airport, is already being developed.
All these structures will be privatised in part, or under long-term concession, paving the way for private participation. The port of Barra do Dande even led to the Memorandum of Understanding between the administrations of the Portuguese ports of Sines and Algarve and the Angolan Barra do Dande Free Zone during the Portuguese Prime Minister’s recent official visit to Angola.
The port of Lobito will also be modernised to provide the necessary interface with the Benguela Railroad and the future gas and oil pipeline that will link the new Lobito refinery to Zambia.
The 2023 WhyAfrica Road Trip was made possible by our incredible sponsors who share WhyAfrica’s values and passion for Africa, the sustainable development of Africa, and the responsible use of Africa’s natural resources. Our primary sponsor Remote Exploration Services took us places in Africa we’ve never been, and with the backing of our silver sponsor NSDV and bronze sponsor ESG Africa Conferences WhyAfrica is able to provide our readers and members with information and content they will not be able to source from any other media company in the world.