The West African nation of Ivory Coast plans to invest more than $230 million into West Africa’s biggest port in an effort to boost capacity and allow docking of bigger ships. The country in undergoing a major economic restructuring as a result of a post-war economic revival. The world’s top cocoa producer plans to service the needs of its landlocked neighbours through its ports in the coming years.
“By 2011, the infrastructure at the port could be inadequate. It’s a question of forward planning,” says Faustin Toha, a port official. “We hope that with the return of peace in Ivory Coast business will return to Abidjan port,” he said.
The major expansion plan involves building quays, warehouses and roads on the Ile Boulay, an undeveloped strip of land in Abidjan’s Ebrie Lagoon, where the port is located. Ile Boulay would be connected to the mainland by a bridge running to the vast Youpougon suburb.
Construction on the mega project work is expected to begin in 2008 but no clear timetable has been elaborated as yet. The project would cost around 75 billion CFA. It would cost around 35 billion CFA francs more to deepen the Vridi Canal linking the lagoon-side port to the open sea to 14 metres depth from 11.5 metres, enabling larger ships to access the port. This would bring the overall cost of the expansion project to 110 billion CFA francs.
“The port of Abidjan wants to figure among the world’s major ports which can receive these big ships,” said Faustin Toha.
The former French colony, which has a smaller port in the western town of San Pedro, is rich in agricultural and mining resources and also has a small but growing crude oil industry.
Resource-hungry Asian giants China and India are expanding their presence In Ivory Coast and other countries in West Africa while Iran has also sent delegations to Abidjan to discuss bi-lateral trade agreements.
Toha said Abidjan’s container port was more efficient than some other ports, avoiding costly delays for shippers. “We can unload containers quickly and there are no tailbacks. In some ports the ships have to stay out at sea until the port is ready for them,” he said.
Trade between West Africa and the Middle East is also set to increase in the coming years and the new port is expected further boost trade relations between United Arab Emirates and Ivory Coast. Dubai’s trade with West African countries has been growing steadily over the last few years.