Roads are a key component of Côte d’Ivoire’s transport infrastructure – not only for its substantial population, estimated to exceed 25m, but also for the transportation of goods, as roads handle the vast majority of total internal cargo volume. While Côte d’Ivoire boasts one of West Africa’s most expansive road networks and has benefitted from the rapid development of its construction sector (see Construction chapter), the country still grapples with a number of incumbent issues that are shared across the region.
Within Côte d’Ivoire, the maintenance, rehabilitation and expansion of the road network has regularly faced delays. A key factor in these delays was the political unrest of the 2000s, which halted public expenditure. To reverse this, a programme of road construction and maintenance works has been ongoing since 2011. At the start of the programme over 80% of the Ivorian road network had been in place for over 20 years and was in need of significant rehabilitation, with low-quality construction and a shortage of state funding contributing to the network’s problems.
The increased focus on improving the country’s road network has yielded positive results. The progress of infrastructure and transportation services is a primary accomplishment from the previous National Development Plan (Plan National de Développement, PND), which covered the 2012-15 period. The last year of this plan saw the completion of the engineering phase of key road projects, including Singrobo-Yamoussoukro highway, the Riviera II highway interchange, and the Henri Konan Bédié, Bouaflé and Jacqueville bridges.
The transport sector was allocated more than $10bn in the subsequent PND 2016-20. With this ongoing public investment alongside the support of a host of multilateral organisations – including the African Development Bank, the EU and ECOWAS – and other international partners, Côte d’Ivoire’s transport infrastructure is on a positive trajectory. Private participation is primarily channelled through public-private partnerships, and grants and concessional loans are an essential source of infrastructure funding in the country, since bank lending is still limited.
Foreign investment offers an ideal opportunity for domestic firms, which can leverage their knowledge of the local market to help maximise the impact of these international inflows. Contractors, however, sometimes note difficult in securing qualified human capital within Côte d’Ivoire. The lack of skilled local subcontractors often drives firms to seek foreign expertise, which results in higher costs and lost economic opportunity within the country.
For instance, Abidjan’s Henri Konan Bédié bridge achieved lower traffic and income than the project’s feasibility studies had predicted. As a result of the lower-than-anticipated revenue, the state’s €52m contribution to the project in 2015-16 accounted for around 40% of the operator’s inflows. Ensuring a domestic talent supply pool that is sufficient to meet the demands of local infrastructure projects would reduce overheads for projects and enable more efficient use of state funding, as well as increase employment and the flow of capital within the country.
The Road Ahead
Côte d’Ivoire’s current PND outlines a host of major transport infrastructure development projects, which will remain imperative in the years to come, helping the country consolidate its position as a regional logistics centre through enhancing connectivity by air, sea, rail and road. Local companies have a key role to play in enabling the transfer of knowledge, and effectively using public and private funds. Alongside a push to enhance human capital, the future may see structural reforms that improve the ease of doing business. A more welcoming regulatory environment could set the stage for further sustainable growth and result in an increased amount of foreign investment. Roads pave the way for greater social and economic opportunity to help drive progress across the country.