/ 4 April 2022

The 1 000km road that will reshape the African economy

Revolutionary Signs Along Street In Ouagadougou
The highway will also be instrumental in unlocking West Africa's landlocked countries, especially Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali. (Photo by William F. Campbell/Getty Images)

Africa is ramping up efforts to upgrade connections between its main cities and hubs, through ambitious infrastructure projects led by regional blocs, with the latest project due to reach completion in 2025. The African Development Bank (AfDB) recently announced it had secured the 15.6 billion US dollars necessary to fund a “game-changing” West African highway.

The East African community has 6 cross-border road projects, totaling 1504 km, while Cemac – which groups central African nations – and SADC (Southern African states) also have similar programs. Meanwhile, West Africa is gaining momentum thanks to the 1,081km highway that will soon link Abidjan and Lagos.

Bingerville in Abidjan and Mile 2 in Lagos will be the locations for the two ends of the large dual, 3-lane road. The highway has three parts, the Abidjan – Takoradi section of 295km; the Takoradi – Akanu (both in Ghana) section of 466 km; and the Noepe (in Togo) – Cotonou – Lagos section, of 320 km.

The facility will ease transportation between the most dynamic seaport cities and most populated hubs of the West African part of the Gulf of Guinea, including Abidjan (5 million inhabitants), Takoradi (just under 1 million), Accra (2.5 million), Cotonou ( 2.6 million) and Lagos (15 million).

The five countries that the highway passes through have a combined GDP of 589 billion US dollars and a population of 284 million, according to World Bank figures.

The highway will also be instrumental in unlocking West Africa’s landlocked countries, especially Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali.

West African nations are expected to ink agreements that will ease cross-border trade and transit, which will allow the emergence of new markets, industrial parks and logistic hubs along the highway.

The Abidjan-Lagos coastline is an area that aggregates nearly 75% of West Africa’s commercial activities, according to the AfDB. The transport sector accounts for 5% to 8% of the region’s gross domestic product and plays a key role in economic development and job creation, particularly for women and young people.

The highway is just one of 16 projects of the Priority Action Plan of the African Union’s Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), being implemented by the AfDB. The project is central to the ECOWAS Vision 2050 of becoming a fully integrated and interconnected economic region.

The Abidjan-Lagos highway project was showcased by the AfDB’s Vice President in charge of Private Sector, Infrastructure and Industrialization, Solomon Quaynor, and the President of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, during March 15-17 virtual boardrooms sessions ahead of the African Investment Forum which wiil take place in late 2022 or early 2023.

The African Investment Forum raises funds for large-scale projects, while the AfDB provided an initial 22.4 million euros to fund the preliminary studies for highway construction.

The ultimate goal of the project is to increase income-generation opportunities for people whose livelihoods depend heavily on transport modes in the region. The completion will be a game-changer, according to the funders.

“The Abidjan-Lagos Corridor is one of the main instruments that will ensure the development of our region and consolidate the economic resilience of West Africa. It is an integral part of the African Union and AUDA-NEPAD’s major continental road development projects,” said Brou said during the forum.

Once achieved, the road line will be linked to another highway that is currently being finalised, the 440km Enugu-Bamenda corridor, which links South East Nigeria to South-West Cameroon. The 430 million USD Enugu-Bamenda is also funded by the AfDB.

The corridor itself is only a small section of a far larger project, the Dakar-Abidjan-Lagos highway. This crossborder, coastline highway will connect 14 West African nations – Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo. – bird story agency