DECEMBER 1 saw the start of operations at Central East African Railways Ltd, the private-sector concessionaire formed to run the 797 km Malawi rail network. With its headquarters in Blantyre, CEAR is led by Pittsburgh-based Railroad Development Corp - which claims it is the first direct investment in Africa by a US railway company.

The 20-year concession was awarded last year to a consortium including Mozambique’s national railway CFM. Other investors are Portuguese port operator Tertir, South African freight forwarder Manica, and Edlow Resources of the USA. In January 1999 an RDC-led consortium including the same investors signed a Memorandum of Understanding to run Mozambique’s Nacala port and the 914 km railway linking it with the Malawi border.

The railway’s traffic base comprises agricultural products, fertilizer, containers, fuel and cement. RDC says its business plan involves boosting capacity through selective improvements of infrastructure, rolling stock and operating practices. Once the Nacala line concession starts, a single commercial entity will offer an integrated service from the port to destinations in Malawi for the first time ever.

  • Construction of the 27 km link from Mchinji in Malawi to Chipata in southeastern Zambia is to resume shortly. In November, Zambian transport minister David Saviye awarded a BOT concession to V3 Consulting Engineers of South Africa to complete the part-built line and extend it 220 km northwest from Chipata across the Luangwa valley and Muchingo Escarpment to meet Tazara at Kanona near Serenje. n