New Railway Network is Expected to Boost West African Economy
By admin March 6, 2015

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Traveling by rail is one of the most important ways of transportation, especially in developing areas. However, in West Africa, there are only fragmented lines, which are unable to connect the whole region effectively. At the same time, the rapid development occurring within Africa has highlighted the growing need for an extensive railway network for regional transportation.

In West Africa, mineral export is an essential driver of the economy of many nations including Nigeria, Ghana, Burkina Faso and Niger. For instance, Ghana’s economy on average has grown as fast as 6% each year, driven by its abundant natural resources. Data shows that mining contribution to its GDP in 2013 was 7.9%. Gold and crude petroleum account for over 50% of the products exported. It is predicted that mineral exports for the overall West Africa region will rise from 109,000 tonnes a year to 3.4 million tonnes a year by 2030.

Nevertheless, the costly transportation from mines to ports is still a big issue that creates pressure on local mining industry. As a result, West African countries and mining companies are investing in a railway project aiming to facilitate the transportation and boost their economies.

The new railway network will be 3,000 km long including 1,200 km of new extension. It will link Benin, Burkina Faso, Niger, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria and Togo, benefiting those landlocked countries with large exporting businesses.

Sable Mining Africa is an example from the private sector involved in the construction of the railway network. It is a resource company focusing on the development of the Nimba Iron Ore Project in southeast Guinea. At the end of January 2015, Sable Mining Africa’s subsidiary, West Africa Exploration, signed a deal with the Liberian government, allowing the company to use a rail line to transport iron ore from the mine in Nimba to the Port of Buchanan in Liberia 300km away. In the meantime, Sable will rehabilitate and expand the railway, contributing to the infrastructure development of Guinea and Liberia.

The increasingly highlighted need for developing an effective railway network throughout West Africa has been attracting investment from all over the world. China is one of the most active players. In November 2014, the China Railway Construction Corporation signed a deal worth nearly $12 billion with Nigeria to build a railway along the West African coast. In 2013, mining contribution to the GDP of Nigeria was 14.5%. So this project would largely benefit Nigeria’s economy by facilitating the domestic transportation and international trade. Moreover, this project and any other railway projects throughout West Africa could create up to 200,000 local jobs in Nigeria alone, attract more investment and boost the economies in the end.


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