As economic growth opens up new opportunities for the development of domestic industries and attracts foreign direct investment, Côte d’Ivoire’s land transport networks are feeling the pressure. In order to accommodate increased traffic volumes and to further improve connections between urban and rural areas, as well as ease the link between the country’s hinterland and its maritime ports, a handful of road and rail expansion and renovation projects are currently being reviewed or put into place.
A significant part of the problem is also related to insufficient investment in the country’s existing networks. Aware of the need to match road infrastructure with growing needs, the government recently approved a new €5.7bn road development plan to be implemented between 2016 and 2020.
According to 2015 government figures, Côte d’Ivoire had a total of 82,000 km of roads, of which 6500 km were paved. Although the government has recognised the need to improve its existing road links and continue to expand the country’s network, finding the necessary financing means to support its plans remains a significant obstacle to progress.
An assortment of public financing, private investment and funds from international development partners have combined to support large-scale road projects in recent years, but authorities are aware that the commitment will have to be a long-term one. In October 2014 Vice-President Daniel Kablan Duncan estimated that the country would need to allocate up to CFA500bn (€750m) per year to its road network for a decade in order to fulfil its development plans.
The investments in road development included in the 2016-20 National Development Plan will build upon the €1.9bn invested in the 2011-15 period. Besides better equipping road infrastructure for growing volumes of traffic, an important part of the strategy is to better connect the country’s urban and rural areas. To support this, a total of CFA1.2trn (€1.8bn) will be invested in the development of 3916 km of interurban roads between 2017 and 2020.
Chief among these investments is the continuation of the northern highway project, set to improve road connectivity among some of the country’s more important economic areas. At the end of 2013 the fourlane highway connecting Abidjan to Yamoussoukro, Côte d’Ivoire’s political capital, was opened. The 230-km road link required an investment of CFA137bn (€205.5m), financed by the Ivorian state, private investors and a group of Arab donors that included the Islamic Development Bank, the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development, the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries Fund for International Development and the Saudi Fund for Development.
Already under way is a further extension of the highway project, from Yamoussoukro to Bouaké, in the country’s central region. Financing for a section of the 106-km road was secured by the Ivorian government in April 2015, through an CFA77.4bn (€116.1m) loan provided by the Islamic Development Bank. Financing will be used to build the 37-km segment of road, connecting Yamoussoukro to Tiébissou.
As can be seen from the previous projects, the role of development finance institutions (DFI) in supporting the government’s capital spending is crucial. Several similar agreements with DFI lenders are in the works. In November 2015 the Ivorian government signed a cooperation agreement with the French Development Agency worth €190m to improve existing road infrastructure.
The financial support is included within France’s Contrat de Désendettement et de Développement that was signed with the Ivorian government, in which debt repayments made to France are later transformed into financial support for various development programmes. The financing package comes on top of a previous debt reduction package that allocated nearly €152m to road maintenance for the 2012-15 period.