Two of Africa’s closest capital cities will become linked, thanks to a rail bridge project signed on Thursday at the Africa Investment Forum in Johannesburg.
Kinshasa and Brazzaville, the capital cities of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Republic of Congo respectively will now be connected by a bridge over the mighty Congo River at the cost of $550 million as at 2017.
In a deal signed by the African Development Bank and the two governments, the 1.6 kilometres-long bridge will include a four-lane highway, a railroad track and a pedestrian walkway. Border posts will be established at both ends.
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The project will be handled by Africa50, an infrastructure investment platform as part of the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) Priority Action Plan.
Representatives from both countries welcomed the move, stating that it will increase diversity, investment and economic growth.
“Upgrading the infrastructure of the Republic of Congo is one of our foremost priorities, in, particularly, transport, which can help us diversify our economy through increased trade and investment,” said Republic of Congo’s Jean-Jacques Bouya said.
DRC’s senior planning minister, Modeste Bahati Lukwebo, said the construction of this bridge will not only link to the cities but will speed up regional integration beyond their borders.
The two cities are currently connected by ferries, which make several trips on a daily basis. The plan to build the rail bridge has been in the works since 2007 when the two countries signed the initial protocols and conducted feasibility studies co-funded by the African Development Bank.
It is reported that the natives of the two cities do not see River Congo as an obstacle but rather as a link, which is now set to keep them even closer when the bridge is done.
According to PIDA:
The bridge is part of a larger project, the Kinshasa-Ilebo railway project, which aims to improve the rail network in Africa. The larger project is expected to contribute to increased regional trade and accelerate regional integration between Central and Southern Africa. The project is expected to allow for cheaper and faster river crossing by passengers and freight. The beneficiaries of the project will therefore include the two countries whose fisci will benefit from increased trade, the increased presence of domestic and foreign companies in both countries, from private transporters and the economic and social benefits of liberated movement of both populations.
The bridge is set to increase the number of people plying the two cities from 750,000 people to at least 3 million people by 2025. Freight is also expected to increase from 340,000 tonnes to 2.5million tonnes.