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– Herald

The National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) board is convinced that Turkish construction giant, Yapi Merkez, which has agreed to invest in the rehabilitation and modernisation of local railway infrastructure, will deliver the funds required for the capitalisation of the firm.

NRZ board chairman Advocate Martin Dinha told The Herald yesterday that they were confident the deal will transform NRZ.

“The Turkish company has committed itself to source, finance and act to fulfil terms of our agreement. We are very optimistic they will (fulfil the agreement).

“Yapi Merkez is a very big company and internationally acclaimed,” he said.

Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to Turkey, Mr Alfred Mutiwazuka also told The Herald from Istanbul yesterday that the deal signalled a “new dawn” for Zimbabwe-Turkey relations.

“This is a game-changing initiative which Zimbabwe currently needs and the signing of this MOU is a culmination of combined efforts by both the Zimbabwe embassy in Turkey and Turkey’s embassy in Harare with the National Railways of Zimbabwe and Yapi Merkezi giving impetus to the discussions on technical and financial collaboration,” he said.

“This development is indeed a new dawn on Zimbabwe-Turkey relations. Turkey has been a behemoth in terms of infrastructure development hence close cooperation with this Newly Industrialised Economy (NIC) provides immense opportunities for Turkish companies to participate in infrastructure development in Zimbabwe, in line with Vision 2030.

“Both embassies have been very proactive in initiating economic engagements between the Government and business sectors of the two countries.

“This MoU is a true reflection of the re-engagement and engagement efforts espoused by the new dispensation under the leadership of President ED Mnangagwa.”

Ambassador Mutiwazuka said the successful implementation of the MoU, which is expected to begin in July this year, will no doubt bring on board Turkish and other international companies of reputable flair to scout for investment opportunities in Zimbabwe.

Experts say the signing of the MoU between the two entities is clear demonstration of the fruits of the investment drive being implemented by the NRZ.

The agreement signals the beginning of the journey towards the transformation of Zimbabwe’s transporter of bulk goods as the partner has a favourable financing model that will make implementation easier.

NRZ is going through a phased recapitalisation drive to restore operational capacity and return to profitability in the short term.

The recapitalisation project will involve the rehabilitation and renewal of plant, equipment, rolling stock, track, signalling and telecommunications infrastructure and the supporting IT systems.

A team of experts from the Turkish firm is now expected to visit Zimbabwe to assess the state of the railways infrastructure and if the two parties decide to implement specific projects, definitive agreements will be signed.

Adv Dinha said the Definitive Agreements shall set out the terms and conditions in relation to the projects which the parties intend to be legally binding.

The purpose of the signed MoU is to define the basic aspects that govern the relationship between NRZ and Yapi Merkezi in relation to the technical, commercial and financial studies to be conducted by the Turkish firm, which will lead to the Definitive Agreements to be executed between the parties to realise thepotential project(s) to be mutually agreed.

The two parties are exploring mutual cooperation in the following areas — removal of cautions, re-railing worn out sections and turnouts, tunnel rehabilitation and bridges upgrade, upgrading buildings and facilities, maintenance and systems installations and train control systems.

It also looks at level crossing equipment, data network upgrade; electrical equipment rehabilitation, yard track rehabilitation, signalling of yard, yard lighting and training NRZ personnel.

Yapi Merkez general manager Mr Ali Aslan Uzun said they have capacity to overhaul Zimbabwe’s railways network after doing similar projects before in Africa.

“We secured a US$1,92 billion contract to build a 422km high-speed electric railway line in Tanzania. We are responsible for designing and constructing the railway line. The works include replacement of the existing century-old narrow-gauge line between Morogoro and Makutupora with a new standard-gauge railway.

“So we are a tried and tested construction company and we have various financing models which we are discussing with the National Railways of Zimbabwe.

“We have faith and confidence that after the signing of this MoU we will visit Zimbabwe and do our assessments and thereafter come up with concrete next steps. But we believe we will come up with a package that will please the people of the Republic of Zimbabwe,” said Mr Uzun.

Yapi Merkezi is a world brand in the field of rail technologies. The company is ranked 78th in the 2020 list of top international 250 contractors.

Government has made the recapitalisation of NRZ one of its key priorities under the National Development Strategy 1 because the entity is a key cornerstone of economic development in Zimbabwe.

NRZ requires a capital injection of US$400 million in the short to medium term.

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