The EU and US back an African railway project


Angola has awarded the tender to operate the country’s second-largest port to European-owned Africa Global Logistics, which promises it’ll help “boost trade in the region and support industrialisation efforts”.

Why’s this important?

The port of Lobito is the end destination for the Lobito Corridor, a new railway project connecting three minerally-rich countries (two of which are virtually landlocked) to the rest of the world:

  • 🇦🇴 Angola has extensive diamond, copper and iron reserves
  • 🇨🇩 DRC is the world’s main source of cobalt (used in batteries), and
  • 🇿🇲 Zambia has copper plus 20% of the world’s emeralds.

The Lobito Corridor has also attracted some intriguing backers: the US and EU pledged their support last month, with President Biden calling the project a “game-changing regional investment”.

Why would Washington and Brussels get involved?

  1. ⛏️ Minerals – Both are working to secure critical mineral supplies, to enable their green transition and minimise dependence on others
  2. 🇨🇳 Competition – China is by far the largest investor in Sub-Saharan infrastructure, investing $155B there over the past 20 years
  3. 🤞 Credibility – To compete, Washington’s new Africa Strategy last year pledged a renewed emphasis on economic opportunity, and
  4. 👷 Commerce – It’ll help the Western-led consortium that won last year’s tender to upgrade the railway, beating out a Chinese bid.

Intrigue’s take: For years, some in the West have arguably focussed more on complaining about – rather than competing with – China’s vast Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

So with Beijing now seemingly tapping the BRI brakes after years of expansion (and related growing pains), there’s space for other financiers.

Now it’s just up to the US and EU to show they can deliver.

Also worth noting:

  • Metals producers have previously voiced reluctance to commit to using the planned railway upgrade, citing a lack of visible progress.
  • The consortium behind the railway upgrade is led by Trafigura, the world’s largest private metals trader. It’s had a controversial history since its founding by European traders in 1993.
  • The new Lobito port operator is owned by MSC, the world’s largest shipping company, which is owned in turn by Italy’s billionaire Aponte family.
Latest Author Articles
US allies hold breath as House readies vote on security assistance bills

After months of deadlock, US Speaker of the House Mike Johnson says he’ll bring a key $95B military aid package to a vote as soon as tomorrow (Saturday).

19 April, 2024
Microsoft invests $1.5B in UAE AI firm after secret US government talks

US tech giant Microsoft has announced it’ll invest $1.5B in G42, the leading artificial intelligence (AI) firm in the UAE. The “strategic investment”, which gives Microsoft a minority stake in the company, aims to further the UAE’s ambitions as an AI hub while bringing yet another leading AI firm into Washington’s orbit.

17 April, 2024
Modi unveils election manifesto as ~1 billion Indians prepare to vote

Few world leaders enter a re-election campaign as sure of winning as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but that’s no excuse to slack off. So last Sunday, just before voting kicks off this Friday, his Bharatiya Janata Party (Indian People’s Party, or BJP) unveiled its election manifesto named Modi’s Guarantee.

16 April, 2024
Could the US let WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange walk free? 

President Joe Biden just said the US is “considering” Australia’s request to end the pursuit of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, a move that could close over 14 years of legal and diplomatic drama. 

12 April, 2024