The newly-opened Henri Konan Bedie bridge will ease traffic congestion in the country’s economic capital, Abidjan.
Thousands of Ivorian pedestrians and motorists flocked to Abidjan’s new toll bridge on December 21st as the long-awaited crossing, which is expected to boost trade in the world’s top cocoa producer, opened to traffic.
The 1.5 kilometre-long bridge is the third road link across the lagoon in the country’s economic capital.
A flagship government project years in the making, it cost €270m ($330m) to build and links the posh northern suburb of Cocody to Marcory, where the seaside city’s port is located.
It is the first major infrastructure project since the former star French colony was ravaged by a low-lying civil war between 2002 and 2004 that sliced the country in half, wreaked havoc on the economy and dragged the Cote d’Ivoire into turmoil for a decade.
Abidjan, which adjoins the Atlantic Ocean, is built around the Ebrie lagoon. It had only two bridges before and they were badly choked. Traffic in the city centre was often gridlocked as a result.
The third bridge, which is also an expressway, will significantly cut travel time to the port area. Experts say this is important in a city which has a huge hinterland, serving several landlocked countries in west Africa.
Built by France’s Bouygues group, the toll bridge will cost motorists between CFA francs 500 and CFAf 1,000 (€0.76 to 1.52), Infrastructure Minister Patrick Achi said.
He defended having a toll bridge in a country where the vast majority of the population is poor, saying the savings in petrol costs thanks to a shorter and more fluid route would more than offset the costs.
The bridge, named after former Ivorian president Henri Konan Bedie, was partly funded by the Africa Finance Corporation (AFC), a Nigeria-based fund which aims to finance infrastructure projects in Africa. Other funding came from the African Development Bank (AfDB; the West African Development Bank (BOAD); the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development (EBID), the Moroccan Bank for Foreign Trade (BMCE) and the Dutch Development Bank (FMO).