Senegal: Details on Dakar’s Urban Rail Project

Bloomberg:

Senegal closed finance arrangements for a $1 billion urban rail project for its capital after finalizing an agreement with the African Development Bank.

The AfDB agreed to offer 120 billion CFA francs ($212 million) for the project that will link Dakar with its main airport, which is 46 kilometers (29 miles) to the east, Economy and Finance Minister Amadou Ba told reporters in the city on Friday. The deal followed after pledges of 197 billion francs from the Islamic Development Bank and 133 billion francs from France, Ba said.

From the AfDB:

This 36 km long railway line will connect the heart of the capital with the new and growing city of Diamniadio. Some 113,000 passengers are expected to borrow it every day by 2019.

In Dakar, 80% of the 13 million daily trips are made on foot due to lack of efficient and cheap public transport. Dakar and its suburbs nevertheless concentrate nearly a quarter of the population of Senegal and contribute to more than half of the national GDP. In this ever-expanding conurbation, the future regional express train will play an essential role, facilitating the daily life of the inhabitants, enabling them to travel smoothly to their work and access to the working areas, as well as to reduce traffic congestion on the road network.

“The project should unleash the growth potential of Dakar and its region,” said Mohamed Ali Ismaël, transport economist at the AfDB, especially since it must be linked with other existing or future modes of transport, such as the Transit Rapid Transit (BRT) project, which will effectively serve the suburbs.”

A few other relevant documents:

  • Overview of the Islamic Development Bank’s projects in Senegal
  • Overview of the Senegalese government’s “Plan for an Emerging Senegal,” of which the regional express train is a part
  • A one-page factsheet (French) on the regional express train
  • Jeune Afrique’s report (French) on the project launch in December. The report mentions that three French firms – Alstom, Engie and Thales – are participating in the project. According to official press releases from those companies, Alstom is providing trains, while Engie and Thales will build the rail system and specifically “will direct the engineering group, provide overall management, and conduct all integration testing.”

Niger: Tandja Between Protesters and Emergency Aid

When Nigerien President Mamadou Tandja decided to remain in office through a referendum that many inside and outside Niger decried as unconstitutional, regional and international forces worked to isolate him. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the European Union, and the United States have all leveled sanctions, and ECOWAS is conducting negotiations between Tandja and the Nigerien opposition. Despite external pressure, Tandja has refused to budge, calling on his countrymen to make sacrifices.

Now, with a food crisis looming, other international actors are filling the void left by the US and the EU: Japan and the Islamic Development Bank recently donated around $13 million in aid, and the UN promises to obtain more. That support might explain why Tandja has felt comfortable leaving the ECOWAS negotiations deadlocked.

Tandja’s government may have the financial support it needs to move forward and not make concessions to the opposition or regional demands, but Tandja losing domestic support? Opposition protests in Niamey on Sunday drew “more than 10,000” for a peaceful event organized by the opposition. Protests of that size occurred last year as the constitutional crisis unfolded, and Tandja weathered those storms. Perhaps the crowds at such events represent only an urban minority. But the protests do speak to a vein of discontent with Tandja’s rule that runs through some of the country.

With donations from abroad Tandja may maintain his balancing act and eventually reach a point where his relations with Western powers and his neighbors return to normal. But he is not there yet, and between the hungry millions in his country, the crowds in his capital, and the skeptical neighbors that surround him, he faces a difficult road going forward.