Paul Obambi, Congolese Billionaire, Behind $1b Railway Project


Paul Obambi’s SAPRO Group has operations in 11 countries in Africa, Europe and Asia, with interests in oil and mining, consumer goods and media.

The project will link the southwestern town of Mayoko to a seaport at Pointe-Noire.

Congolese billionaire Paul Obambi.

SAPRO Mayoko SA, an iron-ore miner in the Republic of Congo, has partnered with Thelo DB in a $1-billion deal to build a new railway track in Congo.

The project will link the southwestern town of Mayoko to a seaport at Pointe-Noire.

The partnership entails building a 412-kilometer railway from Mayoko to Pointe-Noire over the course of five years, Construction Review Online reported.

After the construction is completed, the railway will serve as a medium through which 12 million tonnes of iron will be moved annually through southwestern Congo.

The companies will also rehabilitate an old 182-kilometer rail section as part of the construction phase. 

SAPRO Mayoko

SAPRO Mayoko is a subsidiary of Sapro Group, founded by Congolese billionaire Paul Obambi. It operates an iron-ore project at Mayoko, which it procured from the South African Exxaro Resources Limited in 2016. 

The company sold the enterprise due to its inability to secure port and rail agreements with the Congolese government, booking a $460-million write-down in the process. 

This made SAPRO the country’s first iron-ore producer and exporter offering premium iron-ore lumps when it shipped its first consignment in April 2019.

Earlier, Bloomberg reported that Obambi was in talks with French lenders in 2018 to fund a railway that he was building to export iron ore.

SAPRO also has operations in 11 countries in Africa, Europe and Asia, with interests in oil and mining, consumer goods and media. 

Congo Republic has in April 2019 shipped its first iron ore exports ahead of an expected boom in production from mines owned by Congolese billionaire Paul Obambi’s Sapro SA and Swiss commodities giant Glencore.

Sapro mined the oil-dependent Central African country’s first iron ore in 2017 from its Mayoko project in the southwest and plans to reach output of 12 million tonnes per year by 2022.

Glencore’s joint venture with British Virgin Islands-incorporated Zanaga Iron Ore Co plans to ship 2 million tonnes of iron ore per year over the next two years, and 30 million tonnes by 2024.

Sapro, the Congolese government and British shipping company Ashley Global are also spending a combined $550 million on rehabilitation to Pointe Noire’s deep-water port, the Mayoko mine and an old railway track connecting the two.

At a ceremony on Friday in Pointe Noire attended by the mines minister, a ship loaded with 23,000 tonnes of ore set sail for China, where it will be processed for a European buyer.

“We are heading towards more than a century of production,” said Obambi.

Iron ore prices are near their highest in two years, spurred by growing demand from China and the collapse in January of a dam operated by Brazil’s Vale, which has cut into global output.

Congo’s economy has been hit hard in recent years by low crude prices, which led its debt to balloon. It is currently negotiating with the International Monetary Fund to try to secure a bailout.

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One thought on “Paul Obambi, Congolese Billionaire, Behind $1b Railway Project

  1. Building a dual gauge railway between mayoko,congo and moanda,gabon could be an effective way to have access to two ports. The distance is only 103 km.

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