Independent commodity trading group Trafigura has successfully taken the first step towards reopening one of Africa’s most historic trade routes, with a train journey that ended in the Angolan port of Lobito on Saturday, September 22.
A cargo of 800 t of copper blister, bought by Trafigura from the copperbelt mining region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), made the nearly 1 800 km journey by train from Kolwezi to Lobito.
Trafigura management committee member Julien Rolland noted that while the volume carried is small in relation to total copper exports from the DRC, the operation was of “significant importance” for both Trafigura Group and the region, with the train having carried the first consignments of copper to travel along the Lobito corridor from the DRC to Angola’s Atlantic coast in more than 40 years.
“It has the potential to mark the beginning of a new chapter in the history of a railway line that dates back more than a century and once took millions of tonnes of cargo from the mines of the Congo to the ocean port of Lobito,” said Rolland.
“We intend to play a leading role in re-establishing this route, which still needs investment in the DRC railway. A properly functioning Lobito corridor would take days off the journey time to a world class port that offers the fastest access to American and European markets.”
Currently, copper is exported from the DRC east via Dar es Salaam, in Tanzania, or Beira, in Mozambique, and more recently south via Durban, in South Africa, a journey that takes two weeks or more.
As export volumes have increased from the DRC, the roads have become more congested and delays at the border more protracted. This new export corridor exploits existing national rail infrastructure, removes trucks from the roads and offers an alternative route to markets.
Impala Terminals has significant warehouse facilities in the DRC copperbelt, enabling material collection, loading and dispatch of trains, enabling Trafigura trading and Impala Terminal’s assets to be combined for customer benefit on a strategically important commodities route, now proven as viable.
Moreover, the investments made along the Angolan leg of the line by DT Group, an Angolan focused Trafigura affiliate company, are also expected to help to build traffic and improve returns.