Port expansion set to transform Abidjan into ‘major maritime hub’ for West Africa

Out-Law News | 09 Oct 2015 | 12:53 pm | 1 min. read

Cote d'Ivoire has started work on a major Chinese-backed project to expand the port in the country’s commercial capital of Abidjan.

China, which is contributing 85% of the costs of the $1.12 billion project, said the aim is to turn the port into a major maritime transport hub for West Africa. Work will include deepening the Vridi canal, which links Abidjan’s Ebrie lagoon to the Gulf of Guinea, and building a second container terminal to increase cargo capacity.

According to China’s state Xinhua News Agency, China’s ambassador to Cote d’Ivoire Tang Weibin said at a ceremony marking the start of the port works on 6 October that the scheme “is currently the largest bilateral project to receive the highest funding from the Chinese government”.

Tang said the expansion programme is scheduled for completion in four years and will “reinforce Cote d'Ivoire's economic development, while also taking Sino-Cote d'Ivoire cooperation to a new level”.

In 2013, the Abidjan Port Authority (APA) signed a public-private partnership contract for the second container terminal with a consortium led by Bollore of France. Bollore said the project would equip the port “with a deepwater container terminal capable of accommodating large-capacity ships carrying up to 8,500 twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) containers”. The terminal will also provide the port facility “with one of West Africa's most state-of-the-art trans-shipment platforms, offering a capacity of over two million containers”, Bollore said.

According to the APA, the new container terminal will increase the port’s existing processing capacity of TEU 1.2 million per year to TEU 3 million per year by 2020.

In July 2014, the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) said it had arranged a €200 million syndicated bridge financing facility for advance payments and related costs for the port’s expansion, including the construction of the second container terminal and the roro terminal by the China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd.

Afreximbank said the port, which started operations in 1951, is “one of Africa’s busiest” in terms of volume and “serves as a major international trans-shipment and transit traffic hub, through which 70% of the foreign trade of hinterland countries including Burkina Faso and Mali passes”.

Cote d’Ivoire is among several countries in sub-Saharan Africa that are expected to see faster economic growth than any other region by 2040, according to a report by professional services firm PwC.

PwC said Abidjan is one of the so-called ‘next 10’ cities in the region where foreign investors will be attracted to the “untapped potential” of opportunities.

China is already backing a programme of infrastructure modernisation in Cote d'Ivoire including construction of hospitals, completion of the Abidjan-Grand Bassam expressway, building a sports stadium, completing the Soubre hydroelectric dam in the country’s southwest region and building an industrial zone in Abidjan.