Interview: Clyde Fakhoury
In what ways can sustainable urbanisation be ensured in a city as densely populated as Abidjan?
CLYDE FAKHOURY: There is no doubt that Abidjan is facing major demographic challenges such as traffic congestion, the saturated housing market, the exploitation of natural resources and development of the outskirts of the city. In recent years a series of measures have been implemented to improve the city and guarantee a lasting living environment. These included the paving of streets to facilitate access to villages and neighbourhoods in the district of Abidjan, and the production of drinking water from surface water instead of drilling in areas that are saturated due to urbanisation. In addition, we have seen the construction of bridges and interchanges to improve the flow of traffic, the creation of waterway lines and the development of the city’s future metro network.
Nevertheless, a real solution to rapid urbanisation would be the emergence of a second city as significant as Abidjan in terms of economic and administrative activity. This is the aim of Yamoussoukro, the political capital of Côte d’Ivoire, where an increasing number of institutions and administrations have been relocated.
How are environmental issues managed in the building and public works sector?
FAKHOURY: Environmental issues are very important and must be taken into account when conducting activities in the sector. Every infrastructure project is subject to an audit of energy efficiency, without which financing will not be granted. Environmental assessments such as EDGE green building certification are also mandatory for all projects.
Fast-growing countries like Côte d’Ivoire need to be able to cope with environmental emergencies. For example, the Abidjan landfill, which was highly saturated and becoming dangerous, closed in July 2019. There is a major project to clean the leachate site, recover the gases to produce electricity and transform the site into a vast park. In the coming years the former landfill will operate as a new green centre in the heart of Abidjan.
To what extent can digitalisation solve problems of land ownership and land access?
FAKHOURY: Digitalisation in the property sector will make the process of acquiring administrative acts faster and more secure. As a result of new technologies such as blockchain, land titles will be protected against forgery and ensure that ownership is traceable. This will reassure buyers, improve the quality of land and property programmes, and enable the state to increase its revenue. A number of initiatives are under way in this direction and will be launched in the coming months, once the digitisation of the land register is fully complete.
What would the establishment of a common regional infrastructure development policy mean?
FAKHOURY: Integration policies have the potential to bring about positive outcomes in the region and will make it possible to increase the size of sub-regional national markets. However, integration can only be achieved if there is coordination among these countries. It will be vital to enforce a common policy for infrastructure development and establish financing tools that reach beyond the borders.
Looking ahead, what are the main challenges for the construction sector in the medium term?
FAKHOURY: The sector’s main challenge is the development of housing supply. Companies must find solutions – particularly regarding the setting up of operations – to meet the population’s growing housing needs, while also guaranteeing that projects are of a high standard. Training also remains a key pillar of the construction sector, which could be useful for the export of knowledge, mainly in project management.