By Sola Lawson with Agency Reports
The push for the revival of railway sector in Ghana is proceeding with strong signals of peogress on all fronts. The last one week was particularly positive with reaffirmation of political commitment and a new move to attract American investors in an investment drive personally spearheaded by the President of the Republic, Mr Akufo-Addo
The occasion was a visit by a bi-partisan delegation of the US Congress during which the President made a fervent plea for the American private sector to invest in Ghana’s railway sector. According to the President, the railway network bequeathed to the country by its colonial powers was largely not built upon and has thus, become extremely necessary to develop the sector to meet the increasing transportation needs of the nation.
“We are looking for a major American investment and I am particularly excited about the possibility of attracting American investment in our rail infrastructure. It is an important development for us. The colonial powers left us with a limited but efficient railway infrastructure in the country. Unfortunately, instead of building on it, and expanding on it, we have now allowed it to deteriorate”, President Akufo-Addo said.
In emphasizing his request, President Akufo-Addo indicated that in the case of Ghana, the choice not to build on her existing rail infrastructure “has proven very costly. We are now embarked on a very extensive programme of expanding and developing our rail infrastructure and we think that there is space there for American investment,” the President posited.
The Ghanain leader added that railway infrastructure and transportation is an area that the United States “has a lot of expertise and capabilities in,” and Ghana is certainly ready to open her doors to all American investors who would want to venture into same.
Few days before the President hosted the American delegation, his Minister of Railway Development, Peter Amewu restated government commitment to the expansion and modernisation of railway network in the country. According to the Minister, the government has secured funding to support the development of the Western Rail line from Manso to Huni Valley. The project includes the extension of the standard gauge into the bulk terminal at the Takoradi Port, Mr Amewu explained.
He stated that the Ministry is working closely with the contractor to ensure the completion of tracks up to Nsuta within 12 months to enable migration of the manganese haulage from the narrow gauge onto the standard gauge to enhance efficiency in railways operations. The completion of the development on the Western line to link the new bauxite deposit at Nyinahin to support the exploitation of bauxite and facilitate the Ghana Integrated Aluminium Development Project is also ongoing.
Aside the above, the minister narrated further that the government is currently upgrading the old Railways workshop to strengthen local capacity for the repair and maintenance of locomotives, wagons, coaches and other ancillary railway equipment for the delivery of railway services in Ghana.
“The vision is to modernize and equip the facility for it to become a one-stop workshop to serve the railway, mining, petroleum, agricultural and other ancillary industries in Ghana,” Mr Amewu stressed. According to him, two out of seven workshops were refurbished by Messrs. Rolider Ghana Limited, in 2018 with government funding, adding that, Messrs. CK Engineering and Construction Limited, is also refurbishing five other workshops.
He said to ensure that Ghana developed an adequate local capacity to manage and maintain the railway system, the old Railway Central Training Institute at Location Essikado, since 2021, trained over 600 youthful Ghanaians in engineering degree, diploma and certificate programmes. He indicated that the school had been upgraded into a degree-awarding institution, the Ministry together with Ghana Railway Company Limited and UMaT, had developed academic programmes to ensure students received practical and hands-on engineering training, to strengthen their capacity.
As part of the Railways master plan to modernise and expand the railway network in the country, he said, the existing narrow gauge of the Western rail line from Kojokrom to Tarkwa through Nsuta sections, since 2017 had been rehabilitated to ensure the efficient haulage of manganese from Nsuta Mines to the Port of Takoradi. He noted that the development of a new standard gauge railway network commenced in 2018 for the construction of the 22km Kojokrom to Manso section of the Western line in January 2018.
Meanwhile, the country Presidency has disclosed that the Tema-Mpakadan railway project is now 95% complete. In a recent tweet, the Presidency said this project, when completed, is expected to promote economic activity along its route while reducing traffic on the roads.
“By the end of 2022, the Tema-Mpakadan Railway project, which is now 95% finished, is anticipated to be completed. The project will promote economic activity along its route while reducing traffic on the roads,” the Jubilee House said.
The project is part of the Government of Ghana’s strategy to develop the country’s railway industry to improve its socioeconomic condition. Ghana aims to build more than 4,500km of railway track across the country. The Tema-Mpakadan project is being built as part of a multi-modal transportation network designed to improve connectivity between Tema Port and the country’s northern regions. It is a component of the first phase of the 1,000km Ghana-Burkina Faso Railway Interconnectivity Project, which will build a railway line between the Port of Tema in Ghana and Ouagadougou, the capital city of Burkina Faso.
Construction of the project began in July 2018 and is expected to be completed by December 2022. It was previously planned to be completed in 2021, but was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
One striking feature of railway reform in Ghana is the multilateral nature of financing and contractual relations. It is noteworthy that China is not a dominant player as is the case with Nigeria and Kenya. Ghana is more like Tanzania and Egypt in its multiple sources of funding and engagement of firms from East and West.