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Transport in Tanzania

The concentration of Tanzania's population on the periphery of the country, leaving the central part relatively sparsely sparsely populated, poses considerable problems in transport and communications.


The Tanzania-Zambia Railway Authority (Tazara) rail line rod the Tanzania-Zambia highway, designed to provide an alternative sea outlet to landlocked Zambia, have eased the problem of transportation to the rich Kilombero valley as well as the lringa and Mbeya regions.

The Chinese-built, 1,860- km Tazara line initially experienced financial and technical problems, together with lack of equipment and spare parts. Tazara made its first profit in the June quarter of1983, although it did not consistently achieve profits until 1988. Following the political changes, which took place in South Africa during the early 1990s, Zambia started to make greater use of the much more reliable southern transport routes, creating new problems for the Tazara line. Traffic levels fell from approximately 1m metric tons of freight in 1990 to an estimated 600,000 tons in 1994/95.

Tanzania Railways Corpn (TRC) operates Tanzania’s central railway lines, and its branches. Canada provided finance and technical assistance for TRC's development programme. The IDA agreed in 1991 to lend $76m. for TRC's five- year, $279m rehabilitation project. There is a rail connection with Kenya, and marine services and ferry services across Lake Victoria link Tanzania to Uganda. TRC also operates ferry links across Lake Tanganyika to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and across Lake Malawi to Malawi. In 1999 TRC was awaiting privatization.

Air Tanzania Corpn (ATC), which was founded in 1977, operates domestic and regional services. ATC has persistently suffered severe financial difficulties and technical problems. The airline has on several occasions had to suspend international flights because of financial problems. In 1992 the government proposed the partial privatization of ATC.

Alliance Air was founded in 1994 as a joint venture between ATC, the Ugandan and South African national airlines and the Tanzanian and Ugandan governments, in order to compete with major international airlines. Zanzibar's airport runway has been extended, with aid from Oman, to enable long-haul aircraft to land. Air Zanzibar started operations in 1990 and aimed mainly to cater for the tourist trade.

The Tanzania Harbours Authority's US $220m improvement programme for Dar es Salaam port, including the development of container-handling facilities, received funding from the World Bank, Finland, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, the United Kingdom and the EIB. The project aimed to raise the port's annual throughput capacity from 3m. metric tons to 7m tons by the mid-1990s.

The new container terminal came into service in 1989, and an inland container depot was developed at Ubungo, 15 km from Dar es Salaam. The number of containers handled in 1990 was 73,000 TEU (20-foot equivalent units), rising to 147,000 TEU per year by 1995. Zambia accounted for over 40% of cargo handled at the port in 1993. In 1996 it was reported that port tariffs were to be substantially reduced, in order to encourage the use of Tanzanian ports by Ugandan traders. In 1999 plans for the privatization of both the Harbours Authority and the National Shipping Agencies Co Ltd were under way.

In 2007 RITES Ltd. of India won a contract from the Parastatal Sector Reform Commission (PSRC) to operate passenger and freight services on a concession basis for 25 years. The concession agreement was signed on September 3 2007, and was to begin on October 1 2007. The railway will be run as Tanzania Railway Ltd, with the government owning a 49% stake.

Tanzania has a strong maritime tradition going back centuries. Zanzibar was once the chief port on the East African, Indian Ocean coast. Its hinterland reached into Central Africa as far as the middle Congo River. Swahili traders used dhows to conduct trade though many ports along the coast. This tradition continues today with motorised craft.

Last Updated on Wednesday 9th December 2009

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