The development of new transportation infrastructure in Tanzania is part of a regional initiative to integrate East African countries with the wider world.

A view of Dar es Salaam, the commercial capital of Tanzania.

Tanzania's ambitious program to build state-of-the-art transportation infrastructure is a project that reaches far beyond its economic growth targets. In reality it is a massive regional development program that will integrate the economies of nine East African countries, first with each other, and then with the rest of the world through the Port of Dar es Salaam on the Indian Ocean.

Of the six countries that are partners of the East African Community, Tanzania and Kenya have extensive shores on the Indian Ocean, whereas Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan, and Uganda are landlocked, and so are Malawi, Zambia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Thus, beyond the modernization and expansion project of the port along the vision to create a logistics hub for East African countries, the main issue remains the establishment of a modern railway and road network that will connect the inland countries to the port.
The country has already embarked on the construction of the first phase of a planned 2,506km of rail track following the awarding of tenders, notably to a Turkish-Portuguese consortium, a new diversification from the China-dominated investment scene.

But President Magufuli is not wasting time. During an official visit to Uganda this week, he announced additional objectives to increase the efficiency and connectivity of the new system. First, a dry port will be built in the Mwanza region, creating a center that will spare Ugandan freight a 1,000km trip through Tanzania and the ability to access the Indian Ocean port. Secondly, the Tanzanian government will repair the MV Umoja ferry in Lake Victoria to ease cargo transportation between Mwanza and Uganda. The ferry has traditionally been operated by Tanzania's Marine Services Company Limited between Jinja in Uganda, Mwanza and Musoma in Tanzania, and Kisumu in Kenya. Also, the two countries have agreed to rehabilitate an 11km road stretch from Port Bell in Lake Victoria to Kampala, Uganda's national and commercial capital, and its biggest city, thus facilitating Uganda's access to Lake Victoria. And finally, the leaders of the two countries discussed the construction of a 1,403km pipeline to transport crude oil from Hoima in Uganda to Tanga Port in Tanzania.

Africa's eastern shores are set to host an increasing number of modern deepwater container terminals as they will be serving not only their host countries, but also all the landlocked countries the economic development of which depends on connection to the Indian Ocean through bordering countries.

China has become the primary trade partner of an increasing number of African countries, resulting in growing economic activity, and the need for international investments for container terminals is rising. Some important projects are either planned or underway in these maritime countries. At the end of 2016, a USD4 billion, 750km electrified railway from the Djibouti port to Addis Ababa gave Ethiopia access to the sea through a project that was financed and executed by Chinese companies.

Kenya is also advancing through its USD13.8 billion massive infrastructure development program, which foresees the construction of a standard-gauge railway integrated with the port at Mombasa. The first phase of the project has been completed in 2016, and the second phase is set to be completed at the end of 2018. This project was also undertaken by Chinese contractors.

Another port project that Tanzania is considering is the USD11 billion Bagamoyo megaport, which includes a special economic zone area. The project was launched in 2013 by the previous administration but was later suspended by the current one within its fight against corruption and waste. However, the government recently announced that the project is underway. It is being developed by the China Merchants Holdings International Company Limited, the company that built the Shenzhen city of China, which also contains a special economic zone. If this Tanzania-China-Oman venture comes to completion, the giant port is set to not only accommodate the growing amount of trade volumes between Africa and China, but also trigger new investments in Africa's manufacturing sector, the most important element of its long-term growth potential.