By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh
Popularly referred to as the Abidjan-Lagos corridor, this is a long highway which stretches from Abidjan to Lagos, crossing five independent states (Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin, and Nigeria) from west to east, and includes two political capitals and many regional economic centres.
By European standards too long, but this highway, which has a length of approximately 965 kilometres, is considered the most mega-project to undertake in Africa.
Due to the countries’ linguistic, cultural and political differences, the region’s economic potential has not yet been fully exploited. There has been little alignment of standards and construction of common infrastructure, and even within the countries, transportation links are often unreliable. The idea of undertaking this transport connection has still been on the planning table, with its biggest headache about the source of finance.
Reports emerged that there had been a series of negotiations and meetings at the highest levels to determine effective ways of financing and its final realisation in the region. In this extreme case for this giant infrastructure, global key players offer reassurance, but there has not been any noticeable successful financial commitment.
The Ministerial Steering Committee of the Abidjan-Lagos Corridor Highway Development Project held its 19th in May 2023 to take decisions on expediting the completion of technical studies, securing lands for the right of way, financing the construction of the highway project and the operationalization of the Abidjan-Lagos Corridor Management Authority (ALCoMA).
Welcoming participants on behalf of the ECOWAS Commission, the Commissioner for Infrastructure, Energy and Digitalization, Sediko Douka, lauded the commitment of the member countries and highlighted the fact that the Abidjan-Lagos Highway remains a flagship project for the Commission and is one of the interventions that could change the narrative of ECOWAS by highlighting the contribution to the total economic growth of community citizens with projects in transport, health, agriculture, customs, migration, education and more.
“It will enable community citizens to appreciate better and be informed about tangible achievements of ECOWAS. Indeed, we must accentuate the visibility of ECOWAS achievement on physical infrastructure projects in the area of transport, energy, telecom, water resource and agriculture, just as this project has been presented at various African Investment Forums by the African Development Bank, he said.
Commissioner Douka, however, charged the participants to take an interest in ensuring that the project becomes a reality. “We keep calling on both public and private investors to accompany the countries and ECOWAS in the realization of this visionary venture,” Douka added.
The feasibility and preliminary design studies have been completed, whiles the final phases should be completed before the end of this year. “On resource mobilization, it should be noted that ECOWAS has just adopted a new regulatory framework on the Public Private Partnership (PPP) that is an incentive for the entry of Private Sector in large Investments like the nature of this project,” according to the Commissioner.
Ministers of Roads and Works of Corridor Countries took turns to express their continued commitment to support the completion of the technical studies and accompany ECOWAS and Development Partners to raise the needed investment to fund the project.
Chairman of the Ministerial Steering Committee and Minister of Public Works and Housing of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Babatunde Raji Fashola, expressed his pride at the achievements so far attained from the outset. He highlighted that projects of such magnitude usually encounter several challenges at the preparatory stages, but through the hard work of Project Engineers and Member States, most challenges have been overcome.
“We are building a road over 1,000 kilometres, across five (5) countries, across a diversity of languages and political structures, in a modern era of climate change, people’s rights and sustainability on our horizon. We have heard issues about compensation, environment, social impact assessment, resettlement and action plan etc., because, at the end of the day, this is all about people. So, we must build in a way that takes care not only of people’s interest but also climate and other diversities,” noted Babatunde Raji Fashola.
In this case, partners and stakeholders are still highly optimistic about the completion of the necessary reports to address all the obstacles relating to the project. “If we get this right, then constructing the project will be very easy, so please do not despair. It may look difficult, but with my little experience, this is the hardest part, and we are almost there,” he said and intimated that the operationalization of the Management Authority that will manage the corridor highway development project has commenced with the formation of the Board of Directors.
Vice President of the Republic of Ghana delivered a keynote address during the meeting through Yaw Osafo Maafo, Senior Advisor to the President. The Vice President commended the ministers and ECOWAS for their sustained effort and strong collaboration in preparing the Corridor Highway Project. He hinted that in preparation for the construction of Ghana’s Multinational Highway section, Ghana has embarked on massive sensitization drives along the host communities.
He expressed excitement over the assurance of the African Development Bank (AfDB) to raise the required funds for the highway construction, describing the project as top on the agenda of the Ghanaian government. “The Abidjan-Lagos Corridor Highway Project is on the priority list of the Government of Ghana, and we keenly look forward to the day that the sword will be raised for the commencement of this construction. We believe that this project will give a new dimension to ECOWAS, and we believe it will change the economies of the five (5) countries and the region, and therefore whatever we can do to support it, we will do it,” concluded Yaw Osafo Maafo.
Construction of a highway route from Abidjan to Lagos is tentatively scheduled to begin in 2025. The project is expected to cost $15 billion and will significantly increase regional economic integration. The African Development Bank (AfDB) is involved in the financing. In broad terms, it contributes to poverty reduction and economic and social development in the least developed African countries by providing concessional funding for projects and programs and technical assistance for studies and capacity-building activities.
Its materialisation largely depends on sustained collective efforts to the corridor highway project and strong collaboration. Facilitating the sub-region movement of goods and people. It will connect the industrial zones and move products and services across West Africa. Consequently, this project will give a new dimension to ECOWAS. High gratitude goes to the African Development Bank (AfDB) which is leading the consortium to raise the funds for this project in the region.
Worth re-emphasizing here the Abidjan-Lagos Corridor Highway implementation and its related significance to the African Continental Free Trade Area in the West African region. It has the full potential for achieving the ultimate goals of the single market under discussion. This highway infrastructure involves the five corridor member countries: Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire.
The population within the region is experiencing rapid growth, and nearly 50 million people are expected to live within the corridor by 2035. The Abidjan-Lagos Corridor Highway offers an opportunity for a significant portion of West Africa’s economic output to be generated, and it is also envisaged that cities within the corridor will become the most economically developed across the West Africa region – in the Economic Community of West Africa.