The project to restore the Cotonou-Niamey railway line represents a real growth opportunity for Benin which at the same time will have a knock-on effect on economic activity in numerous local areas.
The relaunch of the Cotonou-Niamey railway project undoubtedly brings Benin into line with current thinking. Given that environmental protection aims have to be reconciled with an urgent need for growth, an increase in rail transport looks like the solution that best meets all needs.
This mode of transport has plenty going for it, such as energy efficiency, low environmental impact, high passenger transport capacity, low transport costs, speed, reliability and safety. Having identified the importance of this means of transport as a driver of economic and social development, African heads of state reiterated, in the context of the NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa’s Development), their political will to restore existing rail infrastructure, construct new rail infrastructure, and interconnect them in order to build an 8,000-kilometre trans-African rail network.
One of the key projects chosen is the extension of the Abidjan-Ouagadougou-Niamey line, and its connection to the OCBN (Organisation Commune Bénin-Niger des Chemins de Fer et des transports) railway. This sub-regional project, lying at the crossroads of a catchment area which by 2020 is projected to be home to nearly 300 million people (Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Niger, Benin, Mali and Nigeria), is a real economic, social and environmental development tool for a whole region. An ambitious, value-adding project
The Cotonou-Niamey-Ouagadougou-Abidjan-Lomé rail loop entered its active phase on 7 and 8 April 2014 with the official launch of construction work on the Niamey-Dosso section in Niger. 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, the capital of Niger. During a visit to Cotonou, the President of Niger and his Beninese counterpart, along with the CEO of the Bolloré Group, Vincent Bolloré, officially opened 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. With this agreement, construction of this key part of the rail loop entered its operational phase.