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Published: 16 September 2015
West African railway deal
The governments of Benin and Niger have signed an agreement with Bolloré for the development of a new railway
The French firm will rehabilitate the 476km section of existing line between Bénin’s main port of Cotonou and the city of Parakou in central Benin, plus extend the line by 574km to the Nigérien capital, Niamey. The Bénirail line will provide traders in landlocked West Africa with another port option on the Atlantic coast in the form of Cotonou, adding to existing entrepôts in Nigeria, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.
Bolloré will take a 40% stake in operating company Bénirail, with 40% open to investors and the governments of Bénin and Niger each taking 10% stakes.
The prime minister of Bénin, M. Lionel Zinsou, said: “Both presidents view it as a priority for their national infrastructure. Never has there been such an important investment in a West African country.”
There has been some opposition to the project from protestors opposed to majority private sector ownership of the line. However, a dry port is already being constructed in Dosso, which is located halfway between Niamey and the border with Benin.
In the longer term, the railway is to form part of a looped railway around West Africa that will include Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire and Togo, as well as Bénin and Cotonou. In addition, talks are being held between the governments of Bénin and Nigeria over the construction of a separate line from Cotonou to Madakali, on the border with the northwestern Nigerian state of Kebbi.
Niger is currently seeking to upgrade its cross-border infrastructure, including a new oil export pipeline, which should help to generate funding to upgrade national transport facilities.