After successfully launching the grandiose highway project referred to as ‘Abidjan-Lagos Corridor’ back in 2017, the five West African States – Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin and Nigeria – are still reviewing mechanisms for its implementation. Series of high-level meetings have discussed the project’s legal framework and its feasibility. The detailed design studies have been completed and scope of financing determined. The Abidjan-Lagos Corridor, the six-lane dual carriage highway, is estimated at US$15.1 billion.
The corridor is approximately 1,080 km long. It will connect some of the largest and most economically dynamic cities Abidjan, Accra, Cotonou, Lomé and Lagos while covering a large proportion of West Africa’s population. It will also link very vibrant seaports in West Africa. In addition, it will serve all the landlocked ECOWAS member-states, for example Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger in the region. Nearly 40 million people are estimated to be living along the Abidjan-Lagos corridor while 47 million people travel along the axis every year. These are expected to be direct beneficiaries of the development of the project touted to be a real backbone of trade in the region.
According official documents, this highway project falls in line with the key objectives of the ECOWAS Vision 2050, including (i) facilitating the movement of people and goods, and (ii) accelerating trade and transport, regional and international, improving road infrastructure. It is eventually expected that the transport corridor will be transformed into a development corridor to stimulate investment, sustainable development and poverty reduction within the entire region.
According to the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, the ECOWAS regional strategic framework has prioritized the development of key regional infrastructure to foster a competitive business environment while increasing inter-regional trade. According to him, the Japan International Development Agency (JICA), the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the European Union (EU) from its African Investment Facility (AfIF), as well as the World Bank (WB), among other IDFs have expressed interest to join this project by contributing to bridge the traceable financing gap.
On 19th May 2023, Ministerial Steering Committee of the Abidjan-Lagos Corridor Highway Development Project held its 19th meeting to take decisions on expediting the completion of technical studies, securing of lands for the right of way, financing the construction of the highway project and the operationalization of the Abidjan-Lagos Corridor Management Authority (ALCoMA).
The feasibility and preliminary designs studies were said to have been completed, while the final phases be completed before the end of this year. On resource mobilization, it was explicitly noted that ECOWAS had adopted a new regulatory framework on the Public Private Partnership (PPP) – an incentive for the entry of private sector in large investments like the nature of this project. The African Development Bank (AfDB) on behalf of the development partners offered its assurance for unwavering commitment to the realization of the highway.
Chairperson of the Ministerial Steering Committee and Minister of Works and Housing of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Babatunde Raji Fashola, has urged united commitment in implementing the project despite the inevitable challenges. He further urged stakeholders to see the seeming delays as necessary for the preparation for implementation of the project. He finally enjoined all project countries and partners to adhere to the project treaty, intergovernmental agreement and the legal regime established by the presidents, which is critical in exhibiting the credibility and investor confidence.
Late September 2023, another roundtable meeting was held in Abidjan, capital city of Côte d’Ivoire, under the auspices of the Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development (EBID).
The official documents indicated that the roundtable was to serve as an awareness-raising platform and a form ‘soft market testing’ of the project to arouse the interest of potential foreign investors, while efforts are being taken to finalize the technical studies in October 2023. The primary aim, among others, was to concretely determine appropriate mechanism of financing, and involvement of development partners and major regional and international Development Financial Institutions (DFIs).
Reports have also said the three (3) consultants implementing the feasibility and detailed engineering design studies on implementation and submitted the draft reports end of April 2023. In addition, reports praised such innovative sources including the proposed ECOWAS Fund for the Development of Energy and Transport Projects (FODETE), an internally generated finance made up of contributions from revenues generated from natural resources, exported from ECOWAS Member States.
Sediko Douka, Commissioner for Infrastructure, Energy and Digitization of the ECOWAS Commission, Mambury Njie, Advisor for Economic and Financial Integration tothe President of the ECOWAS Commission and Chris Appiah, Acting Director of Transport of ECOWAS, these stalwarts of the ECOWAS Secretariat, stated in his speech that the Abidjan-Lagos road corridor project is being implemented not only as a road project but as an integrated ‘development corridor’ which will catalyze the deployment of other important sectors such as industry, agriculture, energy, environment and tourism in the region, thus becoming an economic corridor to boost the growth of the region.
For the African Development Bank, Joseph Ribeiro, Deputy Director General, West Africa, African Development Bank, representing Marie-Laure Akin-Olugbade, Vice-President, Regional Development, Integration and Service Delivery, African Development Bank, in his speech, stressed the integrative nature of this project, which will have an important regional impact. In addition, he stressed that the project will be very significantly in the realisation of the AfCFTA, the continental free trade area.
Stéphane Ezoa, Deputy Director of Cabinet on behalf of the Minister of Equipment and Maintenance of Roads for Côte d’Ivoire, Dr. Amédé Koffi Kouakou stressed the importance to this highway and urged commitment towards the corridor project vision. Sitting in a cosy hall armed with speeches, these stalwarts were still asking all public and private investors to join in realizing this noble vision that will sustainably transform the economic landscape of the region.
For Mabouba Diagne, Vice-President Finance and Corporate Services at the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development (BIDC), the strong mobilization of IFDs and Donors at the 1st round table, marks an important signal of the investor appetite for the construction of the Abidjan-Lagos Highway.
Akinwunmi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) has several times highlighted the importance of the Abidjan-Lagos Corridor Highway Project as an infrastructure project in West Africa that would ease free movement of people, goods and services, generate social and economic activities, and ultimately promote cross-border trade within the region, its economic viability and enormous potentials especially now that African Union looks to implement the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). Noticeably, Africa has long been considered as a frontier for manufacturing, for technology, for food production. Africa is getting ready for business, it is busily building the world’s largest single market of 1.3 billion people.
The roundtable was marked by a very detailed presentation of the highway project covering the objectives, key investment elements, findings from the feasibility and preliminary design studies, other technical details and the structure of the Corridor Management Authority, ALCOMA mandated to construct, manage and operate the highway on behalf of the five countries. ECOWAS and AfDB to host the 1st Roundtable of Development Financial Institutions (DFIs) for the construction of the Abidjan – Lagos Corridor Highway.
This roundtable was initiated following the instructions given to the ECOWAS Commission by the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS at its 63rd Ordinary Summit to collaborate with the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development (EBID) and the African Development Bank (AfDB), as well as other development partners and the private sector, to start vigorous resource mobilization efforts to finance the construction of the Abidjan – Lagos Highway.