The African Development Bank has approved over $696 million in financing for a rail project to link Tanzania, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the bank said.

The project will connect to the existing rail network of Tanzania, providing access to the port of Dar es Salaam to neighbouring countries.

Tanzania President Samia Suluhu Hassan is pushing to complete big-ticket infrastructure projects started under her predecessor John Magufuli to boost trade with neighbouring east and central African countries.

The AfDB said in a statement that it would provide roughly $99 million to Burundi in grants and $598 million to Tanzania in loans and guarantees for the 651 km (405 miles) second phase of the project.

In the first phase of the project some 400 km of rail has been built between Dar es Salaam and Tanzania's administrative capital Dodoma, and a section linking Dodoma to the central town of Tabora is under construction.

The AfDB said it would also help structure and secure financing of up to $3.2 billion from sources including commercial banks, development finance institutions and institutional investors.

The project's total cost in Tanzania and Burundi is estimated at more than $3.9 billion. (Reporting by George Obulutsa Editing by Alexander Winning and Alison Williams)