We start to publish a three part series of how a West African railway of development and growth spearheaded by Bollore Transport was aborted on the altar of ego and petty territorial struggles
That’s west Africa’s flagship rail project in a nutshell. 2,700 km of mainline linking the political and economic capitals of Cotonou, Niamey, Ouagadougou and Abidjan, with a branch line to Lomé.
Nearly 1,000 km of new railway line in Benin and Niger. It also includes sections to be restored, such as the Cotonou-Parakou line dating from 1936. Work on this historic project began officially on 7 and 8 April 2014 with the construction of the Cotonou-Parakou-Niamey section, with the Bolloré Group as strategic partner.
The decision to build the rail loop is a historic one driven by the vision of the States involved. Rail was previously treated as the poor relation of transport infrastructure in favour of road: the loop will be a game changer. Firstly, it will be the first railway line to link five African capitals.
Secondly, as it is less energy-intensive to carry freight by rail than by road, it will enjoy a significant competitive advantage because of its lower carbon footprint.
Finally, rail is a safe, fast and reliable mode of transport. While the value that the project will create is evident, along with strong and sustainable growth, the benefits do not stop there.
The people, in both rural and urban populations, will be the other beneficiaries of the rail loop; they will be able to use this very family-friendly mode of transport at very competitive prices. Linking major cities as part of a sub-regional integration policy, a catchment area expected to be home to a population of 300 million people in 2020 will ultimately reap the benefits – including the people of Niger.
A vital economic and social development project for Niger, it is harnessing the energy of everyone involved, particularly on the 140 km Niamey-Dosso section being built by Bolloré Group teams.