China to help build infrastructure across West Africa

Abuja (Nigeria), Feb 14: A Chinese team of construction experts and economists are on a tour of West Africa for wide-ranging consultations on how China can provide support to improve infrastructure across the region, something that is being seen as an attempt by China to boost its presence in the largely French-speaking part of the 54-nation continent.

The team has already started work which involves the collation of traffic statistics and economic analyses followed by road trips through Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Guinea Bissau and Senegal.

Chinese embassy officials said the decision to help develop the region’s infrastructure was part of his country’s commitment to contribute to the integration and development of West Africa.

Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, president of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, said construction of regional highways remained the priority of the region. He said that ECOWAS was determined to construct the highway linking Lagos in Nigeria to Abidjan in Cote d’Ivoire and that the five countries affected by the project — Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire — have agreed to contribute $50 million for the project to commence.

“The highway will complement the existing two main corridors in West Africa, namely the trans-coastal highway from Dakar to Lagos and the trans-Sahelian highway from Dakar to N’djamena,” Ouedraogo said.

According to him, the Lagos-Abidjan project will handle 60 percent of all transport within the region.

In another development, Chinese Ambassador to Ghana Gong Jianzhong has expressed his government’s preparedness to assist Ghana in flushing out illegal mining in the country which has been led mainly by Chinese nationals. Last year, a total of 4,000 illegal Chinese miners were repatriated from Ghana and Gong has blamed poor security that allowed the people to enter the country in the first place.

(Francis Kokutse can be contacted at fkokutse@gmail.com)

IANS