donderdag 20 september 2018

Moving Salone

While visiting the Sierra Leone and Liberia Business Day on September 11th in The Hague, I received a brochure issued by the Sierra Leone Ministry of Transport and Aviation. It gives a summary of projects awaiting funding and implementation for the period 2018 till 2023. For my Sierra Leonean friends and others who may be interested, I will summarize the summary.

As the title of the booklet says, most of the projects are still awaiting funding. The new government of president Bio has beautiful plans, but it is too early to see results. Just one project mentioned by the Ministry has been completed and delivered last month: the expansion of the Freetown Terminal, a sea port owned 20% by the Sierra Leone government and 80% by Bolloré Ports. The project cost $120 million. After inititally restoring the existing yards, the terminal was extended with a construction of a 270 meter dock at a depth of 13 meters and the creation of a 3.5 hectare area of open ground. It can handle much more and bigger ships now.

The Sierra Leonean capital Freetown is situated along the Atlantic coast and an inland bay or estuary. The national airport is accross the bay at Lungi, and travellers have to cross the water by ferry to reach the capital. Until 2007 there also was a helicopter service, but then the helicopter crashed, killing 20 people. A friend of mine, who visited me in Holland, told me she worked in a shop at the airport, and she used the helicopter service daily to get to her work. She was on the last flight back home, after her flight the helicopter took off again and crashed. The Russian pilot, who survived, went back to his home country. The service was never restored.

The government is introducing a Freetown Estuary Transport Development Project. Its aim is to improve the safety, reliability and affordability of alle service operators. The project is funded by the Korean Exim Bank through the Economic Development Corporation Fund (EDCF). The loan has to be payed back in 40 years, with a low interest rate. The project  will provide six brand new vessels (four big ferries and two water taxis) as well as an "ultra-modern" transport infrastructure at four key locations: expanding the existing terminals of Government Wharf, Kissy and Targrin and building a new terminal at Aberdeen.

Building a bridge across the bay has been on Sierra Leone's wish list for a long time. This month (September 2018) president Julius Maada Bio discussed the construction of  a Lungi Bridge with PowerChina International Ltd. during his visit to China.  The company will visit Sierra Leone in October to discuss a feasibility study and financing of the bridge, according to AYV News.

To start with, Sierra Leone might reconstruct the main road to and from the airport, which is in very bad shape, full of potholes. I remember our driver zigzagging over the road to avoid the holes, which was quite a 'culture shock' to me after arriving at Lungi airport.

During the same official visit to China, where a topconference was held this month with many  African leaders, the Sierra Leonean government signed an agreement with Golden Dragon, a Chinese transportation company, for the supply of two hundred buses to Sierra Leone.

Traffic jams are a major problem in the crowded capital. For many Freetowners it takes hours to get to work, because they get stuck in the traffic. The only flexible but far from safe transport is provided by the okada's, motorcycle taxi's. The ministry of Transport mentions a light rail system as a way out to this problem. The first phase would be to start from Lumley and Aberdeen in Freetown through the east of Freetown to Waterloo. I am familiar with all these locations, that I visited in 2014. There are very little details available on this project, according to the Ministry, first more detailed feasibility studies are needed.

The Freetown Integrated Urban Transport Project (FIUTP) is a $20 million World Bank project, currently in preparation. Objective is to reduce congestion on the roads, as well as improve sidewalks, in three traffic congestion hotspots in Freetown: Lumley round-about to Juba Bridge, Congo Cross, Kissy Ferry Junction and Wilberforce.

At the Sierra Leone and Liberia Business Day in the Hague the representatives of the Sierra Leonean embassy to the Benelux and of the Sierra Leone Investment and Export Promotion Agency (SLIEPA) appealed to Dutch businesses to invest in the future of Sierra Leone: "Sierra Leone is open for business".

President Bio, China discuss Lungi Bridge, AYV News, 4.9.18

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