South African public and private companies will be looking to participate in a number of transport infrastructure projects in Senegal following the visit to Dakar this week by President Jacob Zuma and a delegation of local businesspeople.
Zuma declared his state visit a success on his return to South Africa on Wednesday, saying: "[A] lot has been accomplished at economic and political levels during this visit. There will be a lot of progress going forward".
According to the Presidency, Zuma and his Senegalese counterpart, Macky Sall, expressed their desire for South Africa and Senegal to work together to make Dakar an air transport hub serving the West African region.
They agreed to pursue the establishment of a well-developed aviation maintenance service, and "instructed their ministers responsible for this sector to undertake the necessary steps as soon as possible", the Presidency said in a statement.
Dakar's new international airport, the Blaise Diagne International Airport (AIBD), is due to open in the first quarter of 2014. A new 32-kilometre toll highway running through central Dakar and its surrounding areas was opened in August, with an extended section linking to the new airport due to open in late 2014.
According to a joint communiqué issued after Zuma's meeting with Sall, the Senegalese president "expressed Senegal's wish for the continued involvement of South Africa's Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) in the realization of the Blaise Diagne International Airport in Diass".
At the same time, Sall "praised the interest expressed by South African public and private companies (IDC, Transnet, Lonrho and TMMF Holdings) to form a consortium and participate in the realization of the Dakar-AIBD-Thies Railway Project". The planned railway will link Dakar, the new airport and Thies, Senegal's third-largest city, which lies 72km east of Dakar.
Zuma and Sall also agreed on the twinning of Senegal's Goree Island, which was at the centre of the slave trade, and South Africa's Robben Island. "Goree Island also has an important history for South Africa, as that is where the then exiled ANC met with Afrikaner intellectuals in 1987," the Presidency said.
Following a visit to Goree Island on Wednesday, Zuma referred to that meeting, saying it was "very important as it served to demystify the ANC and help white South Africans in particular to understand it better. This island therefore has a special place in South African transitional history."