Monday, October 07, 2013

Kavindele asks govt to acquire stake in NWR
By Chiwoyu Sinyangwe
Sat 14 Sep. 2013, 14:01 CAT

NORTH West Rail pioneered by former vice-president Enoch Kavindele has asked the government to acquire a stake in the railway line expected to connect Zambia and Angola.

And Kavindele says China Railway 20 Bureau Group Corporation which is currently building the US $1.5bn Benguela railway in Angola is among companies being considered to construct the North-West railway.

In an interview, Kavindele said Zambia would "catch up" with Angola in ensuring the railway connection between the two countries at Jimbe border was achieved almost simultaneously.

The 634-kilometre North West railway was estimated at US $1.3 billion.
"The North-West Railway project is a viable project as a stand-alone because it will transport about 2.5 million tonnes of cargo annually from the North Western to the Copperbelt to meet Zambia Railways," Kavindele said.

"We had a meeting with Hon Yamfwa Mukanga, our transport minister, and we have offered government equity in the project and right now, we await government response to our offer. It has always been our desire to partner with the government from the time this project was initiated. This government has shown unwavering support to ensure this project is fully realised to the betterment of Zambia."

Kavindele said NWR had received 17 unsolicited bids for companies interested in constructing the rail line, with 11 being Chinese while the rest were from South Africa, India, France and US.

"We have engaged government in inviting to take an equity interest in the project just as they have done in most of the mining companies operating in the country," he said, adding that NWR was also talking to some mining companies to buy equity in the railway line to broaden its shareholding structures.

Kavindele said the construction of the railway line on the Zambian side would "catch up" with the Angolan side where construction had reached an advanced stage.

"On the Angola side, the Benguela railway line has been rehabilitated up to Luacano, the border of Angola and DRC," he said. "But to come to the Zambian border, it will take one year to de-mine Mushiko province which is heavily mined as a result of the civil war. They will spend a year clearing the route of landmines. Once they have done that, that is when 324 kilometre to the Zambian border will be built."

Kavindele said the Chinese contractor building the railway line in Angola might extend to Zambia.

"The company that was rehabilitating the Benguela Railway line are saying that we could consider them to jump over and come to Zambia because it is not them who will be clearing the land mines," he said. "So, we are meeting them in the last week of September to discuss their coming into Zambia."

Kavindele said most potential financiers of the railway project were seeking government guarantees for funding.

"Barely a week passes without us receiving an offer of financing but when we ask for terms, they are saying that apart from everything else, they also want sovereign government which the Ministry of Finance is not ready to offer," said Kavindele.

"But it's not necessary and according to figures produced by our financial advisors, KPMG, our project is viable on its own."

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