Trans-continental highway contractor to be announced

By Elias Meseret

The contractor for the Dakar-Djibouti highway construction project is to be disclosed shortly, Capital learnt. A meeting to study proposals of the contending companies was held two weeks ago in Addis Ababa. "Two companies from South Africa and Tunisia are competing to be awarded the construction deal for this huge piece of infrastructure," Adama Deen, the transportation consultant for the New Economic Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), said in Midrand, South Africa during a press briefing on the role of NEPAD in infrastructure.

"These two engineering companies have made financial proposals for the construction of the Dakar-Djibouti highway and we are evaluating their proposals carefully," he said.
Deen added that after this evaluation, it will be know which company will be chosen to perform the work on the road linking the eastern and western coasts of the continent.

Jean Ping, Chairman of the African Union (AU), had said at the 12th AU Summit in Addis that the AU wants to put together a program of action for infrastructure development.
He specifically mentioned the Cairo-Cape Town and Dakar-Djibouti highways: "Although there are missing links along these routes, there are projects in place. For example, the road between Khartoum and Cairo is under construction and a feasibility study has been undertaken for the Dakar-Djibouti Highway," Ping explained.

The ADB has donated funds to achieve this and they are looking for additional partners. The trans-national highway will cross Ethiopia and the design work for the road from Djibouti- Dire Dawa- Meso is completed. Capital also learnt that the road construction for this route will commence in the coming Ethiopian fiscal year.

Deen explained that efforts are currently underway to explore the possibilities of the road: "Now, what is new in this project is that we have developed its terms of reference and sent the two engineering firms," he said, the construction of the approximately 7,000km road is to be supervised by NEPAD, the instrument for implementing AU's infrastructure plans. "The challenge for Africa is to build a road network, the main tool for accelerating dynamic trade between countries," Deen said, adding that the construction of this road is expected to start in five or seven years. The names of the companies contending for the multi-billion dollar project have not been made available.

Experts stressed during the 12th AU Summit, which was themed 'Infrastructure Development in Africa,' that Africa's current infrastructure, which has long been identified as a key requirement for economic growth, needs to be developed to an adequate and efficient standard.

"Despite the global economic crisis, which can have implications for the availability of finance for infrastructure development in Africa, with determination, the challenges can be met," Elham Ibrahim, Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy of the AU said, while addressing delegates from the 53 African countries at the summit. "Infrastructure should be integrated and interconnected, making it easier for Africa to meet its goals on socio-economic development."

She added infrastructure is an important element in the development of peoples and nations as it facilitates socio-economic activities which will lead to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.