West Africa seeks funds from China for transport projects

A lack of roads is seen as one of the greatest barriers to the development of inter-African economic relations and for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), China’s financing may be the solution.

The main joint projects of West African countries in the areas of transport, and energy, agriculture and health were reviewed during a meeting at the end of August at the ECOWAS Commission in Abuja, Nigeria, between the presidency of the regional organisation and a delegation from the China Development Bank (CDB).

Among the projects identified by the president of ECOWAS, Marcel de Souza, is the second phase of the regional highway linking Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Dakar, in Senegal, and also includes plans to go through Bissau, with a total of 3,260 kilometres. The road is expected to cost US$25 billion.

According to ECOWAS, Souza also called for financial support for feasibility studies underway for the Lagos-Abidjan road, an US$8 billion project to connect five of the coastal cities of the region, over more than 1,000 kilometres .

The president of the regional organisation drew attention to the fact that only 12% of trade in West Africa is between neighbouring countries as a result of lack of road, rail, air and sea links between them.

Souza also called for support from the BDC for initiatives in the energy sector and rice production, the staple food of the region’s countries, but which they produce at a deficit.

Zeng Liqing, head of the BDC delegation expressed interest in strengthening cooperation with countries in the region, stressing that the bank’s efforts have led to financing of more than US$46 billion for 43 African countries to develop infrastructure, mining and energy, among other sectors.

Special bank credits for small and medium businesses are being used in 47 African countries, some of which are members of ECOWAS, said the head of the BDC.

A member of ECOWAS, Guinea-Bissau is one of the countries that currently has higher economic growth forecasts – 4.8% in 2016 and 5% in 2017 – as well as ample opportunities, as, besides the need for infrastructure and having available resources to explore (such as bauxite), is part of the regional West African market.

Agriculture is the main source of the country’s income, particularly cashews, which are also one of the identified investment opportunities.

The Africa Intelligence Monitor newsletter reported that a recent Chinese technical study confirmed the country’s suitability, particularly with regard to soil, for large-scale production of rice, a product that the country currently imports to supply the domestic market (around 200,000 tons/year).

The study, according to the same source also points out the prior need for restoration of floodplains (bolanhas) suitable for rice growing, most of which have lain unused in recent years or abandoned altogether.

The Chinese ambassador in Bissau, Wang Hua, has noted the excellent climate and soil in Guinea-Bissau to produce and supply its population and restated its people and reaffirmed China’s support to achieve this objective.

In April, Guinea-Bissau first received the “Meeting of Businesspeople for Economic and Trade Cooperation between China and Portuguese Speaking Countries”, alongside which it was announced that the China Machinery Engineering Corporation (CMEC) will build the new Bissau International Airport, expand the old terminal, build the Pikil fishing port in northeastern Guinea-Bissau, the deepwater port at Buba, in the south, as well as roads, bridges and even social housing.

Guinea-Bissau was this year the theme of a seminar organised by the Macau Institute for Trade and Investment Promotion (IPIM), together with the Permanent Secretariat of the Forum for Economic and Trade Cooperation between China and Portuguese-speaking Countries (Macau).

ECOWAS also includes Cabo Verde (Cape Verde), where in April the refurbishment of the Presidential Palace was completed, in Praia, a project financed entirely by China, along with government buildings, the National Assembly, the National Stadium and other iconic facilities such as the Poilão dam.

At the time, President Jorge Carlos Fonseca told Macao magazine that Cabo Verde’s relations with China had been “privileged since independence,” with a tendency to become “increasingly important”. (macauhub/CN/CV/GW)