GOVERNANCE Bridge Link Between Kinshansa And Brazzavile Provides Central Africa’s Economic Solution

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SOURCE- GOTOAFRICA - The city of Brazzaville at night and on the banks of the Congo River overlooking Kinshasa.

By Gabriella Nina Mitch

An ambitious project initiated a decade ago to build a road rail bridge over the Congo
River, linking the two closest capital cities in the world, but put on the back burner
several times was reactivated in 2017 thanks to the Community of Economic Central
Africa (ECCAS).
The estimated cost of the 1575m long bridge over the Congo River linking Kinshasa and
Brazzaville is more than US$400 million, part of which will be financed by the African
Development Bank.
“During the preparation and evaluation of the project, the financing plan will be
determined and we will know the contribution of each of the two countries to the
financing of the project,” a document related to the project read.
Separated by the Congo River, the inhabitants of Kinshasa, the capital of the
Democratic Republic of Congo and Brazzaville of the Republic of Congo, have never
had any other means of transport to travel to the each other’s capital cities except
through age-old river transport routes.
Despite the volume of trade that goes on every day between hundreds of Congolese
from both countries in services and businesses such as textile, fashion and cosmetic
products many are still subjected to unpleasant travel conditions.
“Two problems exist in terms of travel conditions. The first is related to passengers – the
number of people who travel exceeds the number of trips required in the boat very
often, and one can capsize at any time. The second problem is the level of the goods on
overloaded boats that are lost and never recovered  even after rescue operations,” says
Arlette Bahati, a textile shopkeeper.
“The Road Rail bridge project is progressing well, despite some delays during the study
phase. This phase was completed in December 2016 with the submission of the
Detailed Design Project Report (PDA),” General Coordinator of Transport Programmes
and Projects at the General Secretariat of ECCAS, Jean-Claude Azonfack, said.
He explained the construction of the Road Rail bridge is one of the priority projects of
the Consensual Master Plan for Transports in Central Africa (PDCT-AC) which was
adopted on January 24, 2004 during the 11 th Conference of Heads of State and
Government of ECCAS. The need for the bridge is essential for the promotion of trade,
says Azonfack.
PDCT-AC which is the reference framework for the development of transport
infrastructure in Central Africa has seen Heads of State in the sub-region assign three
objectives to the plan including short terms goal such as the one that requires linking
Central Africa’s with all-weather roads.
The construction of the Road Rail bridge is a positive response to the instructions of the
Heads of State, he said.
In January 2012, the Head of State and Government of the African Union adopted the
Infrastructure Development Programme in Africa (PIDA) including its Priority Action Plan

(PAP/PIDA) executable in Africa by 2020. The removal of missing links on trans-African
roads is part of PAP/PIDA major goals and construction of the Road Rail Bridge further
underscores this.
Although commercial activities and the movement of people between the two countries
seems brisk and robust, there is the dearth of infrastructure to further enhance these
economic exchanges.
Several times a day, bins of the National River Transport Company of the two countries
and private canons make trips back and forth between Kinshasa and Brazzaville
carrying goods consisting of essential goods and textiles, yet the company fails to cope
with a bloated  and growing population of traders.
Little wonder why traders believe that the construction of the bridge could not have
come at a better time.
“The bridge will change a lot of things, especially since our goods will be really secure
because when we travel by boat we cannot make purchases but while traveling by road
we can transact other business. Travel by road or by train will make it easier for us to
quickly dispose off our goods and obtain supplies quickly,” an excited Joel Luc Liandja
said, expressing hope that government would accelerate completion of the  project.
“This road-rail bridge will allow us not only to improve our trading conditions but also
bring the two countries closer together on all levels, economic, political and so on.”
But the project has even more greater implication for the Economic States of Central
Africa since the project will help in simplifying border crossing procedures, contribute to
improving the business climate between the two countries and improve ease of doing
business. The project is also expected to provide for the establishment of transport
facilitation on the Road Rail Bridge.
“At the economic and social level, the construction of this bridge will strengthen
economic exchanges in the Central African sub-region in general and in particular
between the two countries. It is obvious that the construction of the project will improve
the living conditions of the populations of the countries insofar as the ease of crossing
the river will open new opportunities on both sides. There is evidence that the lack of
infrastructure is a physical barrier to the development of trade,” Azonfack said.
Perhaps a new era beckons and with it a new vista of opportunities for residents of the
sub-region particularly that of Congo and DRC. With renewed interest and priority given
to the project by the countries involved especially in terms of seeking finance for the
project there is every course to be hopeful. MA