Zambia: 'Tazara Vital to Regional Trade'

THE African Diplomatic Group (ADG) for diplomats based in Tanzania has said there is need to guard and protect the Tanzania Zambia Railway Authority (TAZARA) because of its significant role in enhancing trade in the region.

And some clients for the cash-strapped jointly-owned railway firm have agreed to start paying for services in advance to help the company raise working capital and sustain its operations. Zimbabwean High Commissioner to Tanzania, Edzai Chimonyo, who chaired the ADG meeting in Dar es Salaam last week, said the continued survival of TAZARA should be supported.

According to a statement from TAZARA, Mr Chimonyo said this was because the company was an asset that was strategically placed and upon which many landlocked countries in the region depended for trade through the port of Dar es salaam. "My hope is that TAZARA can rise to the challenge and become more efficient, even as we wish for this railway to emerge as a symbol of pan-African integration that other countries in Africa can look up to," he said.

The ADG meeting is a gathering usually held once every month by members of the African diplomatic corps in the Tanzanian commercial capital. For last month, TAZARA was invited to make a presentation to the ADG under the theme "Trains, Trade and Transformation". Addressing the diplomats, TAZARA managing director Akashambatwa Mbikusita-Lewanika said clients were responding positively to the company's quest to raise working capital to finance more reliable and efficient customer service.

He said that some clients were accepting the request for advance payment for transportation of freight. Mr Mbikusita-Lewanika said that was one way of acquiring short-term working capital, in addition to the US$5 million promised by each of the shareholding governments which was expected soon.

Elaborating on the financial challenges facing TAZARA, he said that was an innovative measure for raising working capital in the quest to break from unsustainable hand-to-mouth operations arising from long-standing liquidity constraints. Mr Mbikusita-Lewanika told the heads of diplomatic missions, who included high commissioners and ambassadors from 13 African countries, that it was imperative to advance African cooperation, integration and unity for national and continental development.

This, he said, called for protection and promotion of the old spirit of pan-Africanism that was the motivating power in the struggle for African independence. "It (Pan-Africanism) must not be allowed to have narrow nationalism, negative politicisation and fear of integration to reverse already attained achievements, such as illustrated by the living fact of TAZARA," he said.

Mr Mbikusita-Lewanika said there was need for fundamental recapitalisation that should be accompanied by TAZARA's comprehensive reconstruction, organisational restructuring and working cultural change.

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