The African Development Bank Group (AfDB) has approved $301m to undergo a revamp of the Kampala-Malaba Meter Gauge Railway (MGR) in Uganda, with an aim to strengthen regional trade and reduce transportation costs.

This funding package includes loans and grants from AfDB, as well as its concessional lending window, the African Development Fund.

Under the project, 265km of MGR tracks between Malaba and Mukono will be rehabilitated. This covers the line to Jinja Pier and Port Bell on Lake Victoria.  

The project, backed by Uganda’s cabinet and parliament, will also look to enhance the line’s climate resilience by making use of nature-based solutions such as tree planting.

It will also involve training and skills development for rail staff.

Around 1.2 million people are expected to benefit from this project, which is in line with Uganda’s Vision 2040 National strategy and the East African Community’s Vision 2050 plan to transform East Africa into a ‘globally competitive upper-middle-income region’.

Nearly 40% of the people to benefit from the project are women, AfDB said.

The MGR track forms part of the East African Community’s Northern Corridor, which connects Uganda’s capital, Kampala, to the coastal city of Mombasa in Kenya.

At present, over 90% of the traffic along this corridor is moved by road. Only 7% is carried by rail due to weak infrastructure, resulting in high transportation costs.

AfDB president Akinwumi Adesina stated: “Railway lines are critical to opening up the heartland of Africa, where there is immense agricultural and economic potential.”

According to Adesina, the tracks would be key in connecting rural-based Special Agricultural Processing Zones to other crucial logistics hubs.