West African states urged to make a start on ‘daunting’ $15bn highway

3 June 2023

Fast modern highways are considered crucial to the development of West Africa’s economies (Degan Gabin /CC BY-SA 4.0)

The governments of five West African states held more talks last month about a long-discussed $15bn highway connecting Nigeria and Côte d’Ivoire, taking in Benin, Togo, and Ghana along the Gulf of Guinea coast.

The 1,028 km road would form the spine of the Abidjan-Lagos Corridor, a major economic development project.

The Ministerial Steering Committee of the Abidjan–Lagos Corridor Highway Development Project met for the 19th time over 16-19 May in Accra, Ghana to discuss expediting technical studies, financing, and land acquisition.

Ghanaian vice president Mahamudu Bawumia said the prompt execution of the project was critical for the economic development of the region, particularly in the wake of the implementation of the Africa Continent Free Trade Area.

He said most of the preparatory work, such as feasibility and preliminary design studies, had been completed, and that the time had come for the five countries to be “more committed to the commencement of this daunting project”.

The steering committee has been working for the past 10 years on issues such as the legal framework of the highway, the harmonisation of technical standards, and possible funding routes.

The project is also being promoted by the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas).

Ecowas commissioner for infrastructure, Sediko Douka, said the highway could transform the economies of the region.

West Africa’s population is experiencing rapid growth, and nearly 50 million people are expected to live in the corridor by 2035.

However, Douka added that funding remained a problem. “We keep calling on both public and private investors to accompany the countries and Ecowas in the realisation of this visionary venture,” he said.

He added: “On resource mobilisation, it should be noted that Ecowas has just adopted a new regulatory framework for public-private partnerships that is an incentive for the entry of private sector in large investments.”

At present, groundbreaking is tentatively scheduled to begin in 2025.