TAZARA steams ahead

Wed, 01 Mar 2017 13:11:18 +0000

 

…as CBU agrees to train Zambian railway engineers, artisans in Mpika

By KALOBWE BWALYA

 

THE Tanzania Zambia Railway Authority (TAZARA) is an integral part of the Southern Africa Regional Rail Transport Network.

It is a rail link of approximately 1,860 km long rising at sea level from the East African port of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, to New Kapiri Mposhi in central Zambia, at 1,400m above sea level.

The railroad is designed with a 1,067 mm gauge that permits through traffic operations with contiguous railway of Southern Africa, equipped with adequate facilities, and it has a designed capacity of 5 million tonnes of freight a year.

The idea to connect Central and Southern African states to the Eastern coast through a rail link started as far back as 1947.

Both Tanganyika (now Tanzania) and Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) had for a long time wished to agriculturally develop their vast areas in the South West (of Tanganyika) and North East (of Northern Rhodesia), respectively.

On the Tanganyika side, plans for this had been discussed for many years while on the Northern Rhodesian side the suggestion was beginning to receive prominence and support by 1963 through the advocacy of Dr Kenneth Kaunda.

Earlier, the colonial settlers had undertaken a number of surveys on the project and nearly all had declared that the proposed line was economically unjustifiable. This was at the time of liberation agitations and it was apparent that these conclusions were laced with political thinking.

Tazara has since signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Copper belt University School of Engineering to enhance the growth of science and engineering skills.

Transport and Communication minister Brian Mushimba said the MoU will take advantage of its huge untapped capacity that lies grossly underutilized at Tazara Training College (TTC) and create a formal working relationship between the university by introducing university training programmes at the college.

The MoU will cooperate in developing human resources to primarily benefit the railway sector in our two state parties and indeed the larger global economy by training engineers and technicians in Mpika.

This marks a key and important milestone in Government’s continuous efforts to transform Tazara into a business-oriented entity and to strategically position the company to meet the challenges prevailing in the business environment of today.

This agreement is one such measure that shall aid the company endeavor to optimize the application and utilization of all the available resource in assets and infrastructure and thus turn around the company’s fortunes to sustain its operations, turn a profit and promote prosperity for the company going into the future.

Nevertheless, Tazara and CBU have agreed to build synergies and collaboration with each other through the establishment of the training institute at TTC in Mpika and it will also take advantage of the huge untapped capacity that lies grossly underutilized at TTC and to create a formal  working relationship between the two by introducing university training programmes at the institution.

The workshop in Mpika will also avail CBU to facilitate hands-on training for the purposes of teaching, learning, research and providing all kinds of practical engineering training.

Mr Mushimba says the programmes that would be created will be closely monitored to measure time bound implementation of planned activities and outcomes in successful graduates and improved research and teaching methods emanating from the corroborative working relationship.

Through this MoU Tazara will avail CBU the workshops at Mpika for the purposes of teaching, learning, research and improving practical training of Zambian engineers.

Mr Mushimba believes this will also further augment and bridge the gap between industry and academia, thus increasing opportunities for commercialization of the university’s research output to the industry through Tazara.

He said the MoU will also increase opportunities for new students and graduates to acquire training and industrial experience through internships, attachments and mentorship at the renewed Tazara training institution.

Government will take the necessary steps to save Tazara from collapsing and that efforts will be made to ensure that the railway firm operated at its best again.

It is the desire of Government to ensure that Tazara improves its operations and it would be illogical for Zambia to let the railway firm collapse because there are a lot of logistical challenges which need the services of Tazara.

Tazara has not only played a key role in the development of Zambia, but was also good for fostering good relationships with neighboring countries.

It was the wish of Government to ensure that the Tazara railway line was connected and interlinked to many parts of the country in order to enable it become viable within the country through local operations.

Government is also making plans to construct railway spurs to link Tazara to Mpulungu from Nseluka and to Chipata from Mpika.

The CBU is primed to support Tazara attain higher level effectiveness and efficiency by training its human resource with the requisite skills to enhance Tazara’s operations and consequently attain high levels of profitability that the company seeks, amongst other objectives.

CBU Vice Chancellor Mason Ngoma said the MoU will support skills that will project the CBU as a place where scholarships and industrial elements will be married for sustainable national development.

The MoU will also increase revenue generation for Tazara among other things through the commercialization of the university’s research output, including providing ready-to-use graduates some of them with direct soils of railway engineering.

The university is aware that it has entered into this partnership at a time when Government is implementing a robust programme of opening more colleges and universities in rural provinces to support youths in rural areas attain tertiary education.

The Vice Chancellor said the collaboration will help CBU to realize its aspiration of going past the traditional role of teaching and research to what has come to be known as the “third mission” as well as addressing the needs of industry in practical ways, thereby contributing directly to relevant national economic growth and development.

Collaboration between the academia and industry is critical for skills development generation, acquisition and adoption of knowledge and the promotion of entrepreneurship is increasingly becoming a critical component of efficient national innovation systems.

The Zambian Government should be commended for the conducive environment it has provided for technology transfers, sciences, science parks and business incubators

The MoU between CBU and Tazara is a testimony of the university’s commitment to auctioning their strategic intensions to enhance the growth of science and engineering skills first and foremost and other support skills which would project the university as a place where scholarship and industrial elements are married for sustainable national development.

As construction and rehabilitation of the roads infrastructure is ongoing, it is also necessary to work on the railway network because without functional railways, the roads would continue getting damaged.

In the final analysis it is our hope that the people of Zambia and Tanzania are the greatest winners from this collaboration because it will add value to the two communities and industry through critical skills development.

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