The nation’s road transport network is suffering from a lack of paved roads, inadequate water drainage infrastructure and damage from heavy vehicles. Respondents to the World Economic Forum’s 2013-14 “Global Competitiveness Report” ranked the country’s road infrastructure in 140th place out of 149 countries, on a score of 2.3 out of 7. With the government now focused on transport infrastructure, coming years should see dramatic improvements.
In 2002 the government launched the programme for the Development of the Road Network (Programme d’Aménagement du Réseau Routier, PARR) with the aim of building and upgrading 2500 km of roads by 2015. One of the first major initiatives under the programme was the Road Programme (Programme Routier, PR1) to upgrade 252.1 km of roads in the country, at a cost of CFA183.4bn (€256.7m), 90% of which was financed by the African Development Bank (AfDB).
The project, which was launched in 2007, consisted of the upgrading and tarmacking of three different sections of road, namely: a 105-km section of the N1 between Fougamou and Mouila, at a cost of CFA86.4bn (€121m), which was completed in 2012; a 37.7-km section of the N6 road between Ndendé and Lébamba at a cost of CFA48.4bn (€68m), which has also been completed and a 97-km section of the N4 that links Franceville to the main road network between Laleyou and Lastourville, at a cost of CFA68bn (€95m). This was meant to be completed by December 2012, but was pushed back to late 2013 and as of mid-2014 it was unclear if it had been finished.
In 2011 the AfDB agreed to lend Gabon a further €285m to finance a second phase of the programme, known as PR2, which comprises three sections of road, focusing largely on improving access to the south-west of the country. The first of these is a 71.5-km stretch of the N1 currently between Mouila and Ndendé – where it meets with the N6 – in the south of the country; work on the project began in 2012 and is due to be completed by March 2015. The second is a 90-km section of the N6 between Ndendé and Tchibanga, the capital of Nyanga Province. Work on the project, which will link up with another section under construction between Tchibanga to Mayumba on the coast, began in July 2013 and is due to take three years to complete. Finally, the project also includes plans for a 36-km section of tarmac road between Port-Gentil and Mandarové.
Another project in the works that is also financed by the AfDB is the Transafrican Road between Gabon and Congo. The road will link Ndendé in southern Gabon, which also lies on the N1 and N6 roads, with Dolisie in southern Congo, covering approximately 250 km. In July 2013 a representative of the bank told media that work on the road was scheduled to begin at some point in 2014; however, at the time of writing there were no reports of this having taken place.
Linking Up Cities
In addition to such AfDB-financed projects, numerous other road-building efforts are currently under way, with the government planning to invest CFA1.8trn (€2.5bn) in upgrading and expanding the country’s network between 2012 and 2016. One of the most notable of these is the planned construction of a road that will effectively link the country’s second city and oil capital, Port-Gentil, to the country’s main road network, and thereby to the capital Libreville, by 2017. September 2013 saw an agreement by the Chinese government to provide a CFA64.8bn (€90m) loan to Gabon to finance the first stage of the 93-km road, which runs between Port-Gentil and Omboué, including the construction of a bridge over the river Ogooué. The project will be carried out by the China Bridge and Road Corporation, one of many Chinese firms undertaking transport and other infrastructure projects in the country.
In another effort to improve links between the capital and the rest of the country, the authorities aim to renovate the PK12-Ntoum section of the N1 road by February 2015. The segment under renovation is part of a longer section that links the capital to the rest of the national road network. Floods in April 2014 washed away a section of the N1 between Ntoum and Libreville and temporarily cut off road access to the capital. This latest in a series of such incidents highlights the need for transport infrastructure investment. Renovation work will include the widening of some sections of the road into a dual carriageway.
The National Agency for Public Works (Agence Nationale des Grands Travaux, ANGT) is upgrading a section of the N1 between Ntoum and Ntsilé. The work has been divided into three projects with separate contractors. The first of these, a 16.1-km stretch between Ntoum and the Kougelou crossroads, is due to be completed in January 2015. The other two – an 18.5-km stretch between Kougelou and the Agoula bridge, and a 20-km section between the Agoula and Kango bridges – are both due to be completed in September 2014. The Kango bridge itself was damaged by a barge strike in 2012 but was repaired and subsequently reopened in May 2013.
Opening The Interior
Meanwhile the French Development Agency (Agence Française de Développement, AFD) is financing the rehabilitation and widening of a 46-km section of the N2 road – which runs from Gabon’s northern border with Cameroon to connect with the N1 south-east of Libreville – between Ndjolé and Medoumane, parts of which were previously in extremely poor condition. The project includes construction of four bridges to allow the road to bypass Ndjolé, as well as a bus station and a weigh station for trucks. These will facilitate manganese exports from M’Bembele by the Chinese firm Huazhou Mining. The AFD has provided €79m for the project, due to be completed in December 2014. Other sections of road being upgraded in coming months include a 74-km stretch of the N15 road between Akiéni and Okondja in eastern Gabon, due to be completed in December 2014, and a 300-km length of the N3 road running through the centre of the country between Alembé and Lastourville, to be upgraded by August 2016. A 63-km road is also being built between Ovan and Koumameyong, with the aim of boosting the economy of the northern part of the country as well as improving links with Cameroon. The project is due to be completed in July 2015.
The authorities are also prioritising improved transport connections between Nyanga Province and the rest of the country to speed up its development. June 2014 saw the inauguration of the new 520-metre-long Mayumba Bridge across the river Banio. Begun in 2010, the bridge links the island of Bana to the rest of the country and was built at a cost of more than CFA82bn (€115m). It is part of a wider project to build a 103-km road between Mayumba and Tchibanga, due to be competed in June 2015. The road will facilitate access to a deep-water port being considered at Mayumba.
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