The rail loop linking Cotonou, Parakou, Dosso, Niamey, Ouagadougou, Abidjan and Lomé entered its active implementation phase on 7 and 8 April 2014 with the official launches of construction work on the Cotonou-Parakou-Niamey section held in Niamey, Niger and in Cotonou, Benin.
The aim of the project is to establish a rail link of over 2,700 km between political and economic capitals Cotonou, Niamey, Ouagadougou, Abidjan and Lomé. Of the 1,700 km of track that remains to be built, 1,000 are in Benin and Niger.
This will involve restoring the Cotonou-Parakou line, which dates from 1936, and then building a new section connecting Parakou to Niamey. During a visit to Cotonou, the President of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou, and his Beninese counterpart, Thomas Boni Yayi, along with the CEO of the Bolloré Group, Vincent Bolloré, officially launched work on this important West African railway project, which will begin with the priority Cotonou-Niamey section. On 7 November 2013 in Cotonou, the governments of Benin and Niger and the Bolloré Group signed a memorandum of understanding on this construction project.
According to the document, construction and operation of the Cotonou-Niamey railway will be entrusted to a multinational company. It will have share capital of 70 billion CFA francs, split as follows: State of Benin: 10%; State of Niger: 10%; Beninese private sector: 20%; Nigerien private sector: 20%; strategic partner (in this instance, the Bolloré Group): 40%. The latter will also be responsible for raising the finance needed to carry out the work; the projected overall investment cost is nearly 1,000 billion CFA francs. The Group set the tone by investing capital in completely restoring the Benin-Niger Railway (OCBN) central station in Cotonou.
A partner up to the challenge The choice of Bolloré as strategic partner is a smart one given the scale of this development project. The Group’s profile, its experience in railways and its access to resources are inevitably viewed as guarantees of success. Nevertheless, the States did not neglect their own private sectors in this partnership. They required that local investors take stakes in the multinational adding up to 40% of total share capital, or around 28 billion CFA francs.
The challenge now is to harness all these energies to ensure the project’s total success. The knock-on effects of the railway loop project on the local economy are incalculable. Growth is knocking at the gates of Benin. The strategic partner, in this instance the Bolloré Group, has already anticipated and begun work on a Bluezone equipped with the latest environmental technology, producing and storing solar-generated energy in its electrical LMP (Lithium Metal Polymer) battery.
The decision to build such a facility chimes with the Bolloré Group’s desire to help the people of Benin solve the energy difficulties they face.