Vice President Joseph Boakai has joined West African ministers and road experts, who have called on heads-of-state of the seven countries of the Dakar-Abidjan Road Corridor to endorse construction of the six-lane highway.
VP Boakai and a host of road ministers of West Africa, including Liberia’s Public Works Minister Gyude Moore, made the call on March 4 during the second Ministerial and Experts Meeting for the Dakar-Abidjan Corridor Highway held in Monrovia.
“The critical importance of road infrastructure can never be overemphasized, particularly given the enormity of this challenge that our entire sub-region faces,” VP Boakai said, adding that “the impact that road network portends on other spheres of national development is incalculable.”
VP Boakai also emphasized that if one considers how much is spent on wear and tear on vehicles, the impact on health, the time spent moving from one point to the other, and the goods that perish on rugged roads, “no one can under estimate the importance of roads in the West African sub-region.”
“Education, healthcare delivery and agriculture can never be effective without good roads. This is why, as we are with these bad roads, no one needs a rocket scientist to lecture about why Africa is so behind in our development,” he continued.
“It is against this realization that I have personally come to adopt the mantra, which sees the construction of road network as a be-all solution to much of our development challenges. As I have become fond of giving the answer to my three cardinal project implementation plan areas including plan one, roads; plan two, roads; plan three, roads.”
Public Works Minister Gyude Moore said the exercise the ministers and experts were carrying on was not in a vacuum, but something that people on other continents are also doing.
“A few years ago, the Asian Development Bank projected that the Asian economy needed US$8 to US$10 trillion to invest in their infrastructure,” Minister Moore said.
“When the new American President addressed the Parliament recently, he suggested US$1 trillion to invest in infrastructure. So, if we do not invest in our infrastructures, we in West Africa will 50 years from now still sit in such a room like this talking about why we are poor.”
He said the Dakar-Abidjan Highway project was therefore an important investment for the economic future of West Africa.
He also said the highway, when constructed to connect the seven countries, will encourage investors because they will be looking at investing in a populated environment and not a less populated country like Liberia.
Minister Moore also told the gathering to discuss how they can pay for the road infrastructure the region wants to undertake.
He said without honestly discussing and coming out with a new strategy of investing in infrastructure, West Africa will still be as it is; while Asia, the Americas and others are forging ahead with modernizing their infrastructures, West Africa will be lagging behind.
Dr. Antoinette Weeks said the ECOWAS Commission is to ensure all the issues raised by the meeting are considered in the drafting of a treaty and the terms of references for the studies of the different components of the project.
Additionally, she said other things to be recommended to the heads-of-state and government include setting up of a steering committee consisting of Ministers of Works/Infrastructure to provide oversight responsibility and drive the implementation of the project to the heads-of-state and government of the seven concerned member states; the steering committee to request the participation of the Ministers of Justice when needed to ensure all the legal and institutional issues related to the project are well considered; recommending the heads-of-state and government of the seven member states to nominate a champion president, who would promote the development of the project among bilateral and donor partners and within member states and demonstrating the political support and commitment of the member states; and ministers recommending the head-of-states and government to consider contributing funds towards project preparation.
Representatives of the seven concerned countries, in separate statements, described the project as significant to the economic development of West Africa and one that will enhance regional integration.
They then called on their respective governments to consider accepting the treaty by affixing their signatures on it so as to pave a way for feasibility studies and the commencement of the project.