Transport in Gabon is in the midst of a major transformation as authorities work to improve the quality and availability of infrastructure to link the country’s transport systems. One of the most notable of these initiatives is the construction of a new road that will effectively link Gabon’s second-biggest city and economic hub, Port-Gentil, to the capital, Libreville, and to the country’s main road network. Port-Gentil has one of the most important ports in the country and it is also the centre of Gabon’s petroleum industry. However, the city remains accessible only by air or sea as no road link to the rest of the country currently exists, though the ongoing construction project is set to change this in coming years.
Road to Port-Gentil
The road project will be rolled out in two phases. The first stretch, covering 93 km between Port-Gentil and Omboué to the south, is currently under way. Construction is being carried out by the China Bridge and Road Corporation (CBRC) under the supervision of GAUFF Engineering, a German infrastructure-development firm. Work on the first phase began in March 2014 and is reported to be on track for anticipated completion in 2017, according to the Agency for the Promotion of Investment and Exports. The project will require the construction of three new bridges to cross the Ogooué River and the Nkomi Lagoon, two of which will be among the four longest bridges on the continent.
CRBC has built a temporary access road to the construction site and installed auxiliary steel bridges from which it will build the foundation of the permanent concrete bridges. The new section of road will be linked to the N1 route, connecting the region to the rest of the country.
Expected to cost CFA341bn (€511.5m), the Road Fund (Fonds Routier, FR), the agency responsible until recently for maintaining and developing roads (see overview), is financing CFA17bn (€25.5m), or 5% of the project, while the remainder is coming from China’s Export-Import Bank (Exim Bank).
A Vital Link
The second phase of the country’s first inland link to Port-Gentil will extend the road over a 270-km stretch from Omboué to Yombi, further inland, connecting to the country’s main road network and completing the link between Port-Gentil and Libreville. While there is no specific timeline for the start of this phase, work is expected to take five years to complete, and the cost of CFA244bn (€366m) will be shared between the FR and the state. The new road project will facilitate transport and commerce in the future, and is expected to lower the cost of both living and doing business in Port-Gentil. “When the land connection to Port-Gentil is completed, living costs in the city will decrease and the region will see an economic boom,” said Vincent de Paul Mimambani, an advisor to the minister of public works.
The project, representing a $663m investment by EximBank, is key to developing the country’s economy and is also expected to enhance opportunities for tourism development in the region.
In an additional effort to increase the accessibility of Port-Gentil, an expansion project for the Port-Gentil International Airport (PGIA) is well under way to bring the facility up to international standards. The modernisation and expansion of the PGIA is being carried out in anticipation of increased traffic in the years ahead. The project is expected to be completed in 2016 at an estimated cost of more than $100m and includes a new 5800-sq-metre terminal, due to be operational by January 2016.
In order to accommodate larger aircraft and open the airport to international carriers, the PGIA’s runway is being extended to 2600 metres from 1900 metres at present. The upgrades will facilitate economic development in the centre of the oil industry and enable direct flights to Port-Gentil from international destinations, with Air France planning to launch a new direct service between Paris and Port-Gentil twice per week by 2016, according to press reports.
Developing the country’s road network, beyond the link between Gabon’s two major cities, has been a priority for authorities in recent years and construction is under way in many parts of the country to link the network with other major transport systems.
In an effort to improve connections between the capital and the rest of the country, the 28-km PK12-Ntoum section of the N1 road is being renovated, part of a longer section that connects Libreville to the national road network. The project, which is being carried out by Spanish construction firm Ceddex, includes the widening of sections of the road into a dual carriageway at a cost of CFA178bn (€267m). These upgrades, due to be completed by the end of 2015, will facilitate access to the transport services available in the capital for populations in the interior of the country, notably port and rail services out of Owendo as well as the country’s largest airport.
Work is also ongoing on a 98-km section of road between Ovan and Makokou in the province of Ogooué-Ivindo as part of an effort to connect the Bélinga region in the north-east to the station in Booué to facilitate mining in the area. The project to upgrade the road is being financed by the FR at a cost of CFA73bn (€109.5m). Construction began in 2012 and is due to be completed by May 2017. The connection to the national railway will facilitate the movement of resources out of the region to Libreville and onward from the Port of Owendo, providing a boost to the region’s economy.
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