Macky Sall hijacks China’s west African train

China’s trust in Mali having evaporated, Senegalese president is seeking to revise Dakar-Bamako railway

Macky Sall hijacks China’s west African train

Dakar-Bamako railway

Dakar-Bamako railway

February 21, 2018 (WAN) – By exploiting Beijing’s concerns over the lack of security in Mali, the Senegalese president is seeking to revise the project to overhaul the rail connection between Dakar and Bamako, one of China’s many commercial and diplomatic mega-projects in the sub-region.


In December 2015, the two neighbouring countries reached an accord after designating China Railway Construction Corp (CRCC) as the lead operator on this rail project. Initially, the plan was to repair the 1,286 km line linking the Port autonome de Dakar (PAD), managed by DP World, and the Malian capital, but it became increasingly clear that, due to the obsolescence of the infrastructure, including the stations, the signals and the rail gauges, the railway line would in fact have to be rebuilt. This stalled the project, which had been costed at more than $2.5 billion and was slated to take four years. It was to involve introducing a new standard rail gauge (1,435 mm) and ultimately would have had the capacity to transport six million tonnes of freight a year (in particular mining cargo) and two million passengers.

However, in addition to the cost, which the Senegalese and Malian authorities ultimately deemed to be prohibitive, last December five employees of a Chinese telecommunications were murdered in the region of Timbuktu. This prompted Beijing to review its involvement in the project and, more generally, its modus operandi in the Sahel.

Exit Bamako

Although shocked by these murders, Xi Jinping has not completely given up on this project. Encouraged by his good relations with his counterpart Macky Sall, the Chinese president has relaunched the initiative, but this time in conjunction with Senegal alone, China’s trust in Mali having evaporated. Discussions in Dakar are already at an advanced stage and are focusing solely on the reconstruction of the 644 km stretch of line connecting the Senegalese capital to Kidira in the east. This project costed at $1.2 billion, which may be partially funded by Beijing, would involve the construction of a dry port on the other side of the border in the neighbourhood of Ambidedi, making it possible to transport Malian freight via this route. Beijing may then offer to construct the 641 km Malian stretch, providing the security situation in the country improves.

All lines lead to Dakar

Although the Dakar-Bamako line is managed by the joint company Dakar-Bamako Ferroviaire (DBF), this strategy of focusing all efforts on Senegal is of obvious appeal to Macky Sall’s entourage. With the presidential election just a year away, the president’s team will be using the improvements in rail infrastructure as an electioneering tool, and they are already reaping the dividends from the Train Express Regional (TER), the brainchild of his predecessor Abdoulaye Wade. Work on this 40km line, which will link the capital with the new Aeroport international Blaise-Diagne (AIBD), began in late 2016.

To avoid systematically excluding Mali from the potential future railway, the Chinese have also suggested to the Senegalese a rail connection with Guinea in order to tap into its mining potential. Other options are also on the table, including a project proposed by a consortium led by the Turkish firm Tasyapi Construction in conjunction with operators in Dubai, but their proposal is also deemed too expensive by Bamako.

Talks are also under way with the Nigerian magnate Aliko Dangote, who is hoping to create a rail network in the region to transport clinker from his cement works and to tap into the freight of the hinterland. China, for its part, is pushing for the endorsement of its revised project at the Palais du Plateau in Dakar and is also positioning itself to manage and operate the Senegalese rail network through a concession contract.
Description of source: The West Africa Newsletter covers the western French-speaking part of Africa and decrypts political and business events in this part of the world. Country of origin: France
© Copyright 2018 Indigo Publications. All Rights Reserved.

Beijing does the spade work and Paris cleans up!

January 24, 2018 – Underpinned by Eximbank, its formidable financial spearhead, China is increasingly making its presence felt in west and central Africa, a region where France already has extensive business interests. Beijing is now expanding beyond the ‘captive’ energy and raw material markets into the heavy-duty transport infrastructure sector. For the time being, China’s fixation with concrete suits the French, who are managing the new infrastructure, but Beijing has plans to review this ‘division of labour’ to its advantage.


The road, airport and rail networks of several cities are being transformed by Chinese diggers as they strike out along Africa’s Atlantic coastline. Almost all the large-scale projects are being snapped up by the giant state-owned companies China Communications Construction Co (CCCC), Sinohydro and Anhui Construction Engineering Group.

This October in Senegal, CCCC, which is the product of a 2005 merger of China Harbour Engineering Co (CHEC) and China Road and Bridge Corp (CRBC), will deliver a 133 km toll highway linking Thies and Touba, the capital of the Mourides and a bastion of the Wade clan.

In Gabon, CRBC won a contract in July to tarmac 850 kilometres of roads. In Cameroon, China First Highway Engineering Corp (CFHEC), another CCCC subsidiary, is constructing the 215 km highway from Douala to Yaounde and the Kribi-Mboro highway scheduled for delivery this year. Assisted by China Airport Construction Group Corp (CACC), Weihai International Economic & Technical Cooperative (WIETC) constructed the new terminal at Gnassingbe Eyadema international airport in Lome.

Shipping lanes

The port economy is another priority for Beijing. In Ivory Coast, CHEC has been investing for several years in widening the Vridi canal and increasing traffic through the Port Autonome d’Abidjan (PAA). The works are scheduled for completion this year. In Pointe-Noire, Congo B’s economic capital, CRBC is planning to construct an ore port, while China Merchants Group jointly owns the new container terminal at the Port autonome de Lome (PAL). Though the project has been delayed, China Railway Construction Corp (CRCCI) is still in the running to upgrade the rail link between Dakar and Bamako.

‘Triangular cooperation’

All this feverish activity involving strategic infrastructure is not necessarily a negative thing for French operators, Though not directly involved in the construction, they often win the contracts to operate the infrastructure built by Beijing. Groupe ADP (formerly Aeroports de Paris), which already operates at Cotonou airport, also looks set to manage the new Glo-Djigbe airport, which is being constructed by Aviation Industry Corp of China (AVIC). This project, first muted thirty years ago, has been revived by Patrice Talon to relieve flight congestion around the economic capital.

Other companies such as Bollore have teamed up with CHEC to operate several deepwater ports, including Kribi port in Cameroon. Louis Berger has gone into partnership with Sinohydro to construct a 20 km stretch of the highway to Yaounde Nsimalen International Airport. In Congo-B, the new air terminal in Brazzaville, modernised by WIETC, is still being operated by Egis and Aeroport de Marseille-Provence (AMP).

In Senegal, Eiffage is managing the Diamniado highway and the new Aeroport international Blaise Diagne (AIBD), inaugurated in early December. The Senegalese subsidiary of the French construction company, run by the powerful Gerard Senac, also has its sights set on the Thies-Touba highway contract, but it may be thwarted by Beijing’s new strategy of profiting directly from the infrastructure it is building. China looks set to create an ad hoc company to manage this highway.
Description of source: The West Africa Newsletter covers the western French-speaking part of Africa and decrypts political and business events in this part of the world. Country of origin: France
© Copyright 2018 Indigo Publications. All Rights Reserved.

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