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African countries linked by bridges

13.03.2019
Article from AFRIC editorial
With the vast nature of the African continent, bridges play an important role in linking up cut-off areas, be it in the city, rural areas or across borders. Without these bridges, travelling from one place to another is a difficult venture as traders, fishermen and travellers are forced to cross massive water bodies in canoes and ferries which are not very effective in transporting people and goods at the same time.

It is obvious that infrastructure is of utmost importance in the promotion of sustainable development, especially in a continent like Africa, which is still to attain her full development goals. To be able to attain a remarkable level of economic growth, there is need for reliable and efficient infrastructure, including, roads, railways and bridges to facilitate the movement of people, goods and services across African countries.

The number of bridge projects between African states today shows the importance of easing border access, in order to facilitate trade and integration which are essential elements for development. Some of the African countries that have completed or have ongoing bridge projects include Senegal and Gambia, the Republic of Congo and the Democratic republic of Congo, Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea among others.

Bridges linking African countries

Senegambia Bridge

This is the newest bridge in the western part of the African continent which links Senegal and Gambia. The 1.9km long and 100m wide bridge is one of the longest and largest bridges in West Africa.

Works on the bridge which had been delayed for many decades resumed in 2015 and was completed and inaugurated by the presidents of The Gambia and Senegal in January this year.

The bridge project was largely financed by the African Development Bank with a grant of 84million Dollars to Gambia and 4.4 million Dollars to Senegal. The Senegambia bridge which stretches over the Gambia River will enable fluid traffic flow between the northern and southern part of both countries. The bridge will also go a long way to promote trade, integration and reduce travel time across the Gambia River. Also, the bridge is expected to open up rural areas and increase sub-regional trade.

Travelling across the Gambia River before the construction of the bridge was an ordeal, as people had to wait for long hours or even days to board a ferry. This usually led to huge losses especially with perishable goods.

The project aligns with Gambia’s National Development Plan which considers high cost of transportation as a barrier to the development of the economy and also the African Development Bank’s Regional Integration Strategy Paper for West Africa and the Integrate Africa High 5 priority.

Ongoing bridge projects

Bridge linking Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea

Two other African countries that intend to follow the example of Gambia and Senegal by linking their borders with a bridge are Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea. Representatives of the two countries met in Cameroon February 2 and agreed that the bridge will be built over the Ntem River which separates the two countries, specifically running from Campo in Cameroon to Bata, the largest commercial city in Equatorial Guinea.

Though the deal is yet to be signed by both countries; mid-March 2019, the parties believe the project once completed will make traveling by land through Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea easier. It will also promote trade and reduce border check hassles.

The construction of the bridge is said to begin sometime this year, under the supervision of the Economic Commission of Central African States (ECCAS). The budget and contractors of the project are yet to be announced. The construction of the bridge will be financed by a 2 billion FCFA grant from the AfDB to ECCAS. The project which is yet to begin is expected to be delivered 10 months after commencement of work on the site.

Kazungula Bridge linking Zambia and Botswana

The bridge is a rail and road bridge construction over the Zambezi River, which divides Botswana and Zambia at Kazungula. The project to build a bridge that will replace the existing ferry was announced in 2007 by the governments of Zambia and Botswana

The over 234 million dollars’ worth bridge is 923 metres long and 18.5 metres wide made up of 2 lanes and a single-line railway track and pavements to pedestrians.

The project which took off in October 2014 is co-financed by the Japan International Cooperation Agency, the African Development Bank, the governments of Botswana and Zambia and the EU-Africa Infrastructure Trust Fund grant.

This project is in support of the AfDB’s 2016-2025 Industrialization Strategy for Africa, and also aligns with other programs and strategies put in place by regional and continental bodies to improve infrastructure, which they consider as an anchor for Sustainable development. These include: the South African Development Community (SADC) Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan; the Revised SADC Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan 2015 – 2020; the Tripartite Trade and Transport Facilitation Programme; the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Short-Term Action Plan and the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA).

The bridge will go a long way to boost regional economy as it will increase traffic throughout the North-South Corridor, as the route links Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Malawi and Tanzania. At completion, the Kazungula Bridge is expected to serve as a gateway for products from landlocked countries like Botswana and Zambia. The one-stop-border-post facilities (controlled by Botswana and Zambia) will enhance regional trade, reduce transport cost, reduce transit time for people and goods to less than half a day, as compared to the almost eight days in the past. The project is expected to be delivered in 2020.

These bridges, coupled with the highways that link commercial cities in Africa are very important infrastructure that Africa needs to maximize regional trade and integration, which are primordial for sustainable development on the continent.

Article from AFRIC editorial.

Credit images/ google images/African bridges.

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