Chineme Okafor in Abuja
The African Development Bank (AfDB) and European Union (EU) have made financial commitments worth $18 million to the construction of a 1,008 kilometres stretch highway that will run from Lagos in Nigeria through other cities in the West African coast to Abidjan in Ivory Coast, the President of Economic Community of West African Countries (ECOWAS) Commission, Marcel Alain de Souza, has disclosed.
Souza, stated this on Friday during the ninth steering committee meeting of the Abidjan-Lagos Corridor Highway Development Programme in Abuja.
He stated this just as the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, said at the meeting that the Abidjan-Lagos super highway project would resolve a lot of the cross border challenges that affected integration in the ECOWAS region, as well as boost regional trade in the region.
The Abidjan-Lagos Corridor Highway is a 1,008 kilometre road that will traverse five countries in the region including Cote Dâ€™Ivoire, Ghana, Benin Republic, Togo and Nigeria, and will reportedly provide access to vibrant sea ports which account for about 90 per cent exports and 60 per cent imports across the sub-region.
Souza, who in his remarks, described the presence of Osinbajo at the ministerial committee meeting as a sign of Nigeriaâ€™s commitment to the highway project, stated that the project had already attracted $9 million support from the AfDB and $9 million from the EU.
The funds, he stated would be solely expended on the project as participating member countries will provide an additional $1 million as part of feasibility study for the highway project. He also explained that while the feasibility study for the project could start before January 26th, 2018, construction would likely start in six monthsâ€™ time.
He however lamented the delay in implementation of the project despite its importance to developing the regional economy.
â€œWe have discussed with the former Nigerian President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and other private sector to support us. 42 years of integration, ECOWAS has not achieved 15 per cent of its goal and 70 per cent of trade in the region is done through this route. So, hopefully, the construction will start in six month time,â€ said Souza at the meeting which was attended by ministers of works from Nigeria, Republic of Benin, Cote Dâ€™Ivoire, Ghana and Togo
In his remarks, Osinbajo, said beyond trade and other economic prospects, the project would go a long way to promote tourism, create jobs and open small businesses in the region to global opportunities.
According to him: â€œThe development of the Abidjan-Lagos project is the flagship of the entire ECOWAS enterprise and we believe that it will promote regional integration, enable trade, tourism and other forms of economic activities in our sub region and create the much needed jobs for our large youth population.â€
â€œNo doubt, it will connect West Africa by means of efficient road network. It is one of the easiest and most direct ways of boosting local and international economies by extension our regional economy. The corridor will inevitably open up new vista of economic opportunities and set the stage of foreignisation of the vast informal economies that exist in our region,â€ he added.
He pledged Nigeriaâ€™s commitment to the project and its completion on schedule, adding that the nationâ€™s recent ratification of the treaty was a demonstration of its commitment.
The Vice President said: â€œThe project will go a long way in resolving the hindrances to cross border trading in West Africa with obvious positive implications for our business environment and beyond linking the major economic centres in West Africa, it is our hope that it will steer regional economy and regional bloc across the continent.â€
He also described the project as a testimony of the strong relationship among ECOWAS member nations, despite language and currency differences.
While commending the efforts of AfDB, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and other financial institutions on the project, Osinbajo, said it would strengthen existing relations within the region.
â€œI will like you to keep in mind as you commence your deliberations that beyond the hard infrastructure, which is the main priority of this committee, we must also pay attention to the development of the requisite self-infrastructure, good brotherliness, mutual respect, security and rule of law.
â€œAs we build the super highway, we must also build the highway of unity, brotherhood and prosperity for all of our people within ECOWAS and the African Union,â€ he explained.
Earlier, the Chairman of the Ministerial Steering Committee, and Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, said the meeting was held to work towards the project financing.
He acknowledged commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari and the ECOWAS Commission to improving trans-border trade.