Road maintenance a priority in Côte d'Ivoire's transport expansion efforts

 

Since political stability returned after 2011, Côte d’Ivoire’s transport sector has been undergoing rapid development, and the country is now re-emerging as a leading regional transport centre. A number of challenges persist, however, particularly in regards to the maintenance of the national road network, the state of the country’s sole railway line and the underdeveloped nature of its logistics industry. Government authorities and private investors alike are seeking to address such issues, including via the tasks and programmes outlined in the country’s 2016-20 National Development Plan (Plan Nationale de Développement, PND) as well as through various public-private partnerships (PPPs).

Abidjan International Airport

The primary international air hub in the country is Abidjan International Airport – also referred to as Félix Houphouët Boigny airport – located approximately 16 km south-east of the city. The facility is managed and operated by Aeria, a subsidiary of French firm Egis, under a concession agreement that began in 1996 and was renewed in 2010 for 20 years.

Carriers operating out of the airport numbered 22 as of June 2017, according to the National Civil Aviation Authority (l’Autorité Nationale de l’ Aviation Civile, ANAC). The main airline in terms of the number of weekly flights at the facility is flag carrier Air Côte d’Ivoire (ACI), with 113 per week, followed by Air France with 14, Royal Air Maroc with eight, and Asky Airlines, Brussels Airlines and Emirates all operating seven flights per week.

Traffic is growing at a rapid pace: some 1.8m passengers transited via Abidjan International Airport in 2016, making it the third-busiest airport in West Africa. This was up from 1.6m the previous year and nearly triple the 2011 figure of 647,000. The airport expected the number to surpass 2m in 2017 – equivalent to its maximum capacity – having accommodated 791,000 passengers in the first five months of the year, up 18% on the same period of 2016. ACI flights account for around 40% of passenger traffic at the facility. Meanwhile, the total number of aircraft movements in 2016 stood at 32,000, up from 30,000 the year before and 19,200 in 2011. Over the longer term, Aeria’s business plan is based on annual footfall reaching 3m passengers by 2029.

The rapid rise in traffic is being driven in large part by the economic recovery experienced by the country since 2011. However, according to Samir Azzouzi, regional commercial director at Air France, 2017 was slightly more difficult for the local airline industry than in previous years. “Competition is growing – Corsair, another French airline, recently restarted flights – and Côte d’Ivoire is facing economic headwinds from factors such as the fall in the price of cocoa,” he told OBG.

Expanding Capacity

Aeria has ambitious expansion plans for Abidjan International Airport, covering both its terminal and airside infrastructure, with a current focus on the latter. The firm is in the midst of building 11 new aircraft parking stands on the facility’s apron, including one slot capable of handling large planes such as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, bringing the total number of stands to 26. The work is due to be completed by 2019.

The operator is also aiming to complete a project that began in 2014 to redevelop the airport’s taxi lane. Work on the project has already allowed the facility to accept Code F planes – the new generation of the largest planes in the world, such as the Dreamliner and Airbus A380 – with four such aircraft taking off and landing each week as of mid-2017.

Aeria further plans to construct a new 2700-metre taxiway parallel to the airport’s sole runway, which would allow a queue for take-off – effectively boosting capacity – and reduce the amount of time aircraft spend circling the airport waiting to land during busy periods. Aeria signed a contract for the construction of the new path in March 2017. The operator had previously planned to build a second runway before 2025, but construction of the taxiway will obviate the need for that.

Work for the new taxiway, taxi lane and parking stands will cost a combined CFA17.5bn (€26.3m) out of a total CFA41.3bn (€62m) that Aeria plans to invest in the facility between 2015 and 2019. Some of the current infrastructure development is being financed by a €13m loan that Proparco, the private sector financing arm of the French Development Agency, agreed to provide to the company in April 2017; Aeria received a similar loan from the institution in 2012. The airport operator has obtained additional financing from other international donor groups and commercial banks.

Terminal Works

Aeria is also expanding passenger capacity within the terminal itself. This will involve building a provisional extension of the current terminal to create new boarding gates for ACI flights, which are driving much of the increased business and congestion during busy times at the facility. The extension, which will cost approximately CFA650m (€975,000), is estimated to be up and running in the first half of 2018. Moreover, construction of a new charter terminal began in February 2017 and was due to be completed by the end of the year. The first phase of building works to enlarge the facility’s car parking infrastructure, which suffered from congestion up until 2016, was also completed during 2017. Parking capacity increased by 50%, from around 600 vehicles to nearly 900.

Efforts to develop a new freight terminal was also under way at Abidjan International Airport in 2017. The facility will double annual freight-handling capacity from 25,000 tonnes per year to 50,000. Actual cargo movement stood at 20,500 tonnes in 2016, according to ANAC data, down slightly from 20,800 the year before, but up strongly over the 13,400 tonnes in 2011. The project was initially due to be completed in 2015 after a March 2014 launch, but was put on hold due to disagreements over financing. However, as of July 2017 work on the terminal was back on track and 92% complete, due to open in January 2018, according to industry media. The total cost of the freight terminal was estimated at CFA21.4bn (€32.1m) that month: CFA15.6bn (€23.4m) came from the Islamic Development Bank, CFA2.8bn (€4.2m) from the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries Fund for International Development and CFA3bn (€4.5bn) from the Ivorian state. The new capacity should allow Abidjan to regain regional cargo business lost to other destinations, such as Ghana.

Looking to longer-term plans, Aeria is also expecting to build an entirely new international passenger terminal, although preparation for this is in its very early stages and the project is not expected to be completed before 2020. The authorities are further planning to establish a so-called Aerocité on a 3700-ha site adjacent to the airport. The large mixed-use area will include an exhibition centre and several high-end hotels, as well as commercial, industrial, logistical and residential facilities. The project – which was originally awarded to Aeria but was removed from the firm’s docket in 2015 – is to be built under a PPP framework. Government officials approved planning documents for the project in mid-2016; however, the construction timeline for the Aerocité remains unclear.

Other Airports

In addition to Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire has another international airport in Bouaké and five domestic facilities, including an airport in the country’s second-major port city, San Pedro. The authorities are planning to transform the San Pedro facility into a third international airport through the construction of a new terminal, at an estimated cost of up to CFA45bn (€67.5m).

Being able to bring international flights directly to San Pedro will help the city’s development in many ways, putting it on the map for both travellers and air freight companies. An expanded airport would also allow merchandise arriving at the seaport to be flown onwards to other countries without being first trucked to Abidjan or Bouaké.

Air transport players see even more potential for the city. “There is a growing shortage of agricultural land worldwide, which is leading people to look for such land in Africa, something that will boost San Pedro’s development,” Aboubakr Machia, president of the Association of Airline Representatives, told OBG. “The city also has strong tourism potential, and developing an international airport would further help to de-congest Abidjan by reducing the need for flights between the two.”

Road Transport

In terms of land travel, Côte d’Ivoire’s national road network stretches 86,400 km, according to road-management body Agence de Gestion des Routes (Ageroute). This includes 244 km of motorway and a further 6453 km of two-lane inter-urban asphalt roads, as well as 4314 km of paved urban roads. The Ivorian network alone accounts for around 60% of roads in the UEMOA, and has a density of 25 km per 100 sq km, making it among the most developed in the region.

Other modes of overland transport are generally underdeveloped, meaning the agricultural sector relies heavily on the road network for the distribution of products around the country and to the ports for export. Given the prominence of agriculture in the economy, road infrastructure is critical to future growth. “Agricultural producers in Côte d’Ivoire tend not to like to hold large amounts of stock, and therefore want to transport their products quickly, which adds to the importance of the road network,” Aboh Essan, director of the Transport Infrastructure Development Office at the National Bureau for Technical Studies and Development, told OBG.

Network Development

The country’s previous PND, covering 2012-15, saw the construction of a number of new elements of road infrastructure, including a motorway between Singrobo and the administrative capital Yamoussoukro, a 124-km road connecting Boandiali and Tengréla, and three new bridges. Although some international donors that have previously supplied infrastructure funds say the country’s current priority should be on maintaining and renovating existing roads, the government is also planning further road construction, with an aim to almost double the size of the sealed road network to 12,000 km by 2025.

Extensions will largely come in the form of new east-west connections, as the majority of the existing network consists of north-south routes. The expansion includes plans to increase the length of the country’s motorway network to 1500 km, focusing on interstate connections to neighbouring Mali, Burkina Faso, Ghana and Liberia.

Nearly one-quarter of the required budget for the 2016-20 PND – which is to come from a mix of public sector funding and private investment – is being devoted to roads and the wider transport sector, equivalent to just over CFA7.1trn (€10.7bn). This amount includes CFA2.6trn (€3.9bn) for the construction of new roads or the paving of existing roads. Projects under the five-year plan include the development and asphalting of the Abidjan-Dabou portion of the motorway between the economic capital and San Pedro, at a cost of CFA70bn (€105m), with similar works between Yamoussoukro and Bouaké costing CFA285bn (€427.5m), and the construction of a motorway between Grand Bassam and Samo coming in at CFA56bn (€84m). The plan also anticipates the asphalting of existing road links to the borders with Ghana, Mali and Burkina Faso.

Extending the time frame another five years, total government investment under the National Road Development Programme 2016-25, unveiled in August 2016, stands at CFA3.8trn (€5.7bn). These funds are for works across the country, with priority placed on ensuring the construction of new infrastructure and maintenance of existing links.

Maintenance Concerns

The road network has suffered from problems such as a lack of proper maintenance during the country’s political crisis, and deterioration has continued in recent years due to a shortage of financing. This lack of funding was caused in part by the accrual of debts resulting from previous extra-budgetary work on the system, which maintenance funds are now being used to service.

According to industry observers who spoke with OBG, the quality of construction work on some recently built roads has also been poor, leading to degradation more quickly than usual. “We have a relatively dense network compared to other countries in the region, but it has suffered from a lack of maintenance in the last 20 years and our priority is now on maintenance to avoid losing it,” Pierre Dimba, director-general of Ageroute, told OBG.

Authorities estimate that the country is at risk of losing approximately two-thirds of its current asphalt road network if they do not undertake urgent maintenance and renovation measures within the next three years or so. International donors are also increasingly placing emphasis on the necessity of properly maintaining existing infrastructure, prioritising these projects above new construction.

The current PND allocates CFA121.4bn (€182.1m) to road maintenance and CFA899.6bn (€1.3bn) to the rehabilitation of existing roads – almost all of which goes to paved surfaces. In October 2017 work began on the upgrade and expansion of the 13. 4-km Boulevard de Marseille, one of Abidjan’s main arteries. The project includes improved connectivity with associated roads as well, such as the Boulevard Valéry-Giscard-d’Estaing in the south of the city.

Officials are also aiming to change the profile of the roads they lay. “We want to build roads more intelligently and in a manner more suited to the local environment,” Dimba told OBG. “For example, roads are a place of commerce in Africa, hosting activities such as markets, so we are designing in space for those. All our projects with the African Development Bank (AfDB) include connection zones, including rehabilitation or construction of places for markets, social inclusion projects and schools.” Furthermore, new rules are being drawn up to sanction firms that do poor-quality work, to avoid a repeat of previous problems (see Construction overview).

Funding

The government is looking to secure a variety of funding sources for investment in road maintenance, upgrades and expansion. In June 2017 it sold approximately $1.88bn worth of eurobonds, split between dollar- and euro-denominated securities, which media had previously reported would be used to support infrastructure development.

International donors have financed much of Côte d’Ivoire’s road construction in the past, and some organisations continue to provide funding for the segment. In December 2016 the AfDB approved €770m worth of financing for transport infrastructure development in the country, including the construction of a new bridge in Abidjan and six large-scale interchanges, as well as the rehabilitation of traffic lights at some 90 crossroads and the laying of 88 km of high-speed urban roads.

However, other donor groups are withdrawing from the sector due to concerns that the projects they are funding are not being properly maintained and are degrading rapidly, in part because of excessively weighted vehicles. In any case, authorities say that the situation in regards to maintenance is too pressing to rely on new grants from such donors – whose funding cycles tend to run over long periods – and are instead looking to other sources of financing to address the issue, including PPPs.

Three such joint projects have already been launched, including a programme to rehabilitate the road linking the Abidjan-Yamoussoukro motorway to Gagnoa being undertaken by Ivorian construction and public works firm PFO. In a meeting with OBG in June 2017, Ageroute said the project was expected to be completed within 24 months.

To finance the backlog of needed construction and maintenance works, the authorities also plan to introduce a toll road system, which will complement other funding sources, such as fuel tax. “Tolls were due to be put in place some time ago, but this was delayed due to the numerous crises suffered by the country; however, the government is now planning to gradually roll out a toll system on the country’s main arteries,” Dimba told OBG. Fines to be levied on trucks that exceed weight limits will also help fund such works. Still, Essan of the Transport Infrastructure Development Office said that these fines will not be sufficient to cover costs, and that authorities are therefore contemplating introducing additional taxes in the sector to fund road works. “One possibility is the introduction of new levies on the agricultural production of commodities such as cocoa,” he told OBG. “Farmers lose a lot of their production of perishable goods to transport-related delays, so increasing the quality of the roads system would be of particular interest to them.”

Overloading

As mentioned, a major issue affecting the lifespan of the road network is the overloading of trucks and other vehicles that transport goods, causing accelerated degradation of main arterial roads and networks. In April 2017 the government began to apply Rule 14 of the UEMOA, which mandates the enforcement of vehicle weight limits with the use of weigh stations. However, under external pressure from other states in the region, Côte d’Ivoire suspended the rule shortly afterwards.

Dimba told OBG that the authorities planned to again apply the rule, beginning in late 2017, and that the government is building weigh stations in order to facilitate its enforcement, with all new roads and newly renovated roads to feature at least one station from 2018 on. Industry figures say regional coordination regarding the issue is vital to other transport modes as well.

Freight & Logistics

Over-road freight transport is dominated by small and medium-sized firms in Côte d’Ivoire, with many companies operating fleets larger than several dozen trucks. However, professionalism in the segment is generally lacking, with vehicles frequently in poor shape in regards to maintenance and safety. The attrition rate is also high, as many firms tend not to have the capacity to properly price contracts, and thus struggle to survive among fierce competition.

The country’s wider logistics sector is also underdeveloped. Williams Bella, partner at real estate services and management firm Alleb Group, told OBG that there is currently a major shortage of warehousing and other logistics facilities in Côte d’Ivoire, particularly for a country on the road to industrialisation. However, he said that there was growing international investor interest in commercial real estate in the country – notably for office and retail space – and that this could extend to the logistics sector in the coming years.

Both public and private actors in the transport arena are working to develop the logistics sector. The government aims to build a new dry port on a 3185-ha site in the northern town of Ferkéssedougou, 581 km from the economic capital, at an investment cost of CFA300bn (€450m). The facility, for which the state is seeking a private investment partner, will serve as a logistics hub for land-locked neighbours Mali and Burkina Faso. The premises will be segregated into three main areas: an import-export terminal, a hydrocarbons storage depot and a livestock terminal, including an abattoir and livestock market. Several dry ports already serve the greater Abidjan area, reducing pressure on the seaport’s own storage and logistics facilities.

In the private sector, SEA-invest, a Belgium-based company that operates a mineral terminal at the Abidjan port, is working to build a logistics base in the Yopougon district of the city. The base, which is being built on a 16-ha site, is due for completion by mid-2018. “Given the congestion in Abidjan, operators – especially to the north and those in the new industrial zone of PK 24, as well as in Mali and Burkina Faso – will benefit greatly,” SEA-invest’s Konan told OBG. The company is targeting major clients, including large food and beverage producers and retailers in nearby industrial areas.

French operator Bolloré – which manages one of three standalone logistics business units in the country, and has 300,000 sq metres of warehousing capacity at the Abidjan and San Pedro ports – is also planning €100m worth of investment throughout its warehousing operations in the coming years. The focus will be on the storage of cocoa exports, around 51% of which already transit through the firm’s warehousing and clearing operations, according to figures provided by the firm. Local freight transporter Centaures Routiers is also planning to establish a national network of depots that would allow distributors in interior regions to stock up on key merchandise without having to travel to Abidjan.

Maritime Hub

The Port Autonome d’Abidjan is the country’s main port facility, accounting for 85% of national Customs revenues. It is also an important regional maritime centre, as well as the largest tuna-fishing port in the world. The facility has 34 berths along a total quay length of 6 km, allowing it to host 60 commercial vessels at one time.

Total merchandise traffic through the port stood at 21.7m tonnes in 2016, down slightly from 21.9m tonnes the previous year, but up on the 2014 figure of 20.8m tonnes. Traffic is dominated by general merchandise – which accounted for 13.7m tonnes in 2016 – followed by petroleum products at 7.2m tonnes: 4m tonnes of imports and 3.2m tonnes of exports. Exports of general goods are led by coffee, cocoa, cashew nuts and bananas, while the primary imports are construction materials and rice.

A major modernisation and expansion programme is currently under way at the port. As part of this, the port has removed a barrier at the entrance of the Vridi canal, which previously required larger vessels to undertake complicated manoeuvres to enter, slowing down shop movements and preventing them from entering at night. The next stage of the expansion project is to deepen the canal. This, too, will facilitate the arrival of larger ships, allowing them to transport goods to and from the port in an effort to reduce the quantity of smaller ships needing to enter the facility, thereby boosting efficiency.

Another initiative in the works at the port is the construction of a second container terminal, as capacity at the existing terminal – which is managed by Bolloré – has started to reach its limits, with import and export volumes growing steadily in recent years. The new terminal will be operated by a consortium comprising Maersk and AP Moeller of Denmark, and Bolloré and Bouygues of France. It will raise total container-handling capacity at the port from 1.2m twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in 2017 to around 2.8m TEUs upon completion. Furthermore, in July 2017 the Japanese International Cooperation Agency agreed to provide €90m worth of financing for the construction of a new cereals terminal at the Port Autonome d’Abidjan.

Such projects will help to re-establish Abidjan as an international transit point for imports and exports of West Africa. “Our ambition is to make Côte d’Ivoire the logistics hub for the entire region, with Abidjan port used not only by land-locked neighbouring countries, but also, for example, by firms in western Ghana,” Ageroute’s Dimba told OBG.

Second Port

Côte d’Ivoire’s second port is located at San Pedro, on the western edge of the country’s coastline. The Port Autonome de San Pedro (PASP) is primarily used for exports of commodities such as cocoa and coffee, as well as for trans-shipment to other parts of the region. It is well located for links to nearby Liberia and, in particular, landlocked neighbours Burkina Faso and Mali.

Activity at the PASP has been rising rapidly in recent years. Total merchandise traffic at the port amounted to 4.85m tonnes in 2015, up from 4.73m tonnes in 2014 and 1.85m tonnes in 2011, according to Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), the Swiss-Italian firm that manages the facility’s container terminal. Nearly 60% of the 2015 figure was trans-shipment cargo, 29% was exports and 12% was imports. Cocoa shipments dominated exports from the port in terms of volume, at 828,543 tonnes – or 60% of the total – while cement accounted for the largest share of imports in terms of volume, at 259,200 tonnes and 43% of the total.

Overall traffic at the PASP’s container terminal stood at 286,516 TEUs in 2015, down from 336,767 TEUs the previous year, but over double the 2011 figure of 118,071 TEUs. The fall in volume experienced in 2015 was due to a drop in trans-shipment traffic – from 182,682 TEUs to 124,603 TEUs – likely due to a slowdown in regional economic activity on the back of lower international oil prices. The remaining traffic was more or less evenly split between imported and exported containers, at 77,144 TEUs and 84,769 TEUs, respectively.

San Pedro Expansion

The container terminal has been operated by MSC under a concession agreement since 2008. In May 2017 the firm signed another agreement with the government for a period of 35 years, under which the terminal will be expanded at a cost of CFA300bn (€450m). This will enlarge its surface area five-fold and allow it to receive ships with capacities of up to 14,000 TEUs – a substantial improvement on the current maximum of 5000 TEUs. The project will increase overall container capacity to 1m TEUs per year, from around 300,000 TEUs in 2017.

The port operator, MSC, is also responsible for the basic infrastructure work of the project, and was in discussions regarding the financing of construction in mid-2017. According to local media in January 2018, MSC had secured enough funding to begin construction in the upcoming months. Building work is expected to take two and a half to three years. The authorities are planning a variety of other improvement-based expansion projects at the port as well, including the construction of hydrocarbons and minerals terminals, although these have not advanced as far as the container terminal scheme. Industry figures agree, however, that for the various projects at PASP to yield their full potential, land transport into and out of the city as well as those to neighbouring countries must be improved.

Road access between San Pedro and Abidjan is also challenging, with numerous detours along the motorway connecting the two cities. Underscoring the precarious nature of overland travel, a bridge near San Pedro on the road linking the city to Grand-Béréby collapsed amid heavy rains in June 2017. Efforts to address such problems include a planned renovation and paving of sections of the Abidjan-San Pedro motorway included under the 2016-20 PND, and a grant from the EU to support the development of the Bamako-San Pedro corridor, expected to reduce travel times between the PASP and the Malian capital by around 70%.

Rail

Côte d’Ivoire is home to a large portion of one of the few major railroads in West Africa, the 1260-km link between Abidjan and Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso. The line is managed by Sitirail, a unit of Bolloré, under a concession agreement with the authorities of the two countries. Sitirail agreed to a renewed concession on the line in July 2016, under which it has also become responsible for investment in track infrastructure, railway stations and maintenance yards; previously its responsibilities were limited to operating the network and investing in rolling stock. The line transports around 300,000 passengers and 900,000 tonnes of freight annually, although both figures have been falling in recent years due to the poor state of the line. Frequent breakdowns and interruptions of service have been the result, such as the collapse of a bridge on the Côte d’Ivoire section of the line in 2016.

To address the condition of the line, an 852-km section is to be upgraded, including several stations along the route, as part of a major refurbishment programme; Bolloré is to invest €400m in the project as part of its new concession agreement. Renovation works, previously due to start in the autumn of 2016, were to begin in September 2017, according to local media mid-year. The works are reported to last five years. Once completed, the line’s capacity is expected to increase to handle 5m tonnes of cargo and 2m passengers per year.

Outlook

The national transportation infrastructure is indeed set for major repair and expansion in the coming years, with projects under way or in the pipeline to expand the ports in Abidjan and San Pedro, rehabilitate and boost capacity of the national railway, grow ACI’s fleet, and increase handling capability at Abidjan International Airport for both cargo and passengers. Moving forward, the key challenges for the entire sector will be to ensure that existing roads are properly maintained and rehabilitated where necessary, to attain the funding to do so; strengthen links between major ports and the country’s hinterland, as well as neighbouring landlocked states; and develop the logistics sector so it is able serve the whole of West Africa. Provided such key points are addressed, Côte d’Ivoire will add to the groundwork is has already laid to reach its goal of becoming a regional transport and logistics hub.

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The Report: Côte d'Ivoire 2018

Transport chapter from The Report: Côte d'Ivoire 2018

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