Côte d’Ivoire is moving to consolidate its position as a major logistics cenxtre in West Africa by constructing new ports and upgrading its existing ones.
In September 2018 a CFA262bn (€399.4m) deal was signed with Chinese officials to establish a dry port in the country’s north. The 3185-ha project will be constructed in the northern city of Ferkessédougou, and will consist of an import-export terminal, a hydrocarbons depot, and an abattoir and regional livestock market. According to Ally Coulibaly, the minister of African integration, the port will be funded and constructed by Chinese state bodies, with a completion date set for 2020. The port’s strategic location – 600 km north of the economic capital of Abidjan – will provide a link between the Autonomous Port of Abidjan (Port Autonome d’Abidjan, PAA) and neighbouring landlocked countries such as Burkina Faso and Mali. The import-export terminal should also ease the regional flow of goods by allowing Customs procedures to be conducted on site, without the need for incoming freight to be transported to Abidjan for processing.
Port of Abidjan
The dry port deal comes amid a series of infrastructure upgrades at the PAA, Côte d’ Ivoire’s largest by size and throughput. Launched in 2015, a major extension and modernisation programme aims to triple capacity from a flow rate of 600,000 containers to 1.8m. Additionally, the expansion involves widening and deepening the Vridi Canal to accommodate large ships weighing over 150,000 tonnes with draughts of 16 metres. At present, the port can only dock ships with up to 50,000 tonnes. Some 85% of the CFA560bn (€853.7m) project is being financed by the Export-Import Bank of China, with the remaining 15% funded by the Ivorian state and regional banks. The China Harbour Engineering Company is executing the work, which is expected to be completed in August 2019.
A new terminal carried out by a consortium comprising Danish firms Maersk and AP Moeller, along with France’s Bolloré and Bouygues, will further boost the port’s handling capacity, from 1.2m twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) as of 2017 to 2.8m TEUs upon completion in mid-2020. The port’s first roll-on/roll-off dock was completed in March 2018, 17 months ahead of schedule. This development will allow 190,000 vehicles to be unloaded annually. Given that the port collects 85% of national Customs revenue, the expansion associated with the additional terminal is critical for both Abidjan and Côte d’Ivoire more broadly in positioning itself to service West Africa.
While the construction of a new dry port and the ongoing expansion of existing facilities in Abidjan is increasing handling capacity, other transport and infrastructure issues pose challenges. Philippe Labonne, deputy CEO of Bolloré, told local media in October that urban congestion was a major factor slowing the clearing of freight from the PAA, which he said was on average five times slower than leading shipping centres in Asia. A report released by the World Bank in February similarly said inefficient Customs procedures and a lack of related infrastructure often resulted in full warehouses and average processing times of 10 days. “The problem is that the port was built in the middle of the city, which is quite common in emerging markets, but it poses a logistical problem because all imports and exports have to go through the city’s traffic,” Glenn MacArtney, general manager of Maersk, told OBG. “Specifically, Abidjan has only three bridges that one can use to go from the port to the rest of the country,” he added.
As part of efforts to remedy the situation, in June 2018 the World Bank issued a $315m loan to finance the Greater Abidjan Port-City Integration Project, an initiative to improve logistics efficiency and port accessibility. It seeks to establish another $130m dry port on the northern outskirts of Abidjan to alleviate pressure on storage facilities and Customs. A further $164.3m has been dedicated to improve port access roads, build a new bypass and upgrade existing intersections.
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