12 May 2014

Liberia: What Is Stalling Ganta-Yekepa Road Project?

Dakar — At the CSE site in the Sierra Leone District of Kissy, several caterpillar trucks bound for Liberia sit on a stretch of space, awaiting finalization of details that would pave the way for the company which has left its marks in Burkina Faso, Mali, The Gambia, Senegal, Niger, Nigeria, Benin and most recently in next-door Guinea and Sierra Leone, to make its long-anticipated entry into Liberia.

The controversy surrounding how the company lost when it was expected to win the bid to refurbish the Red-Light to Ganta project to the Chinese, remains a mystery, but with the green light all but settled on the Ganta-Yekepa route, the company is hoping to make a splash on a project which will give Liberia a taste of what many other African countries, including Liberia's next-door neighbors already know, that the Compagnie Sahelienne D'Entreprises which has been in the construction business since 1970 is the Real Deal.

"All we want is fair competition. Our work will speak for itself," says Mamadou Demba Sow, the company's Exploration Manager, at the CSE's office in Dakar recently.

Since its formation in 1970, CSE, originally called Compagnie Senegaise d'Entre-prises', starting with an initial capital of ten million CFA Francs has boomed into a successful multimillion dollar company.

In Mali, the company is credited with the construction of the Manantali dam which serves Mali, Mauritania and Senegal which prompted the Malian government to award the company the Markala/Niono road.

The successes in Mali and other neighboring countries pushed the company to change its name to its current, Compagnie Sahelienne d'Entrepises to show its international dimension.

The change led to massive construction contracts in Sierra Leone, Cameroon and other African countries, which led its General Manager Aliou Sow being named African Manager of the Year by the monthly economic magazine Jeune Afrique Economy.

The change, according to CSE, was necessary to give surrounding African nations the advantage of CSE know-how, achieve substantial savings for foreign customers, wit fait prices, employ an exclusively African workforce and quick mobilization and expand the range of works in countries having different geographic landscapes: rock, excavations, mounting cuttings, including the Maoloko Mountain in Sierra Leone and significant inroads across the continent.

Besides road construction, CSE is also aggressively engaged in construction of buildings, specializing in public works buildings, embankments, roads, and sewerage and drainage systems, leaving a trail of impressions not only in Senegal, but in Mali, Cameroun, Gambia, Burkina Faso, Niger, Guinea and Sierra Leone, where it has been operating since 1984. CSE has often partnered with the Sierra Leone Roads Authority (SLRA) and with International Funding Agencies.

CSE's work became clearly visible in Senegal when the government began large-scale construction to improve traffic conditions from Dakar to inner land, including a direct to inner land expressway.

Partnering with SOSETER, CSE 5 SANY motor graders, who were the largest local engineering company with a long history, with subsidiaries of two engineering construction companies to help establish Dakar as one of the premier highway capitals in West Africa today.

Like it is currently doing in Sierra Leone, CES faced difficult conditions, amid complicated earth conditions and huge underground stones which caused great wearing to the equipment.

Momodou Senghor, Site Manager for the busy Tokeh-Lumley road says an increase in traffic has pushed CSE and Sierra Leone into modifying existing contracts to meet the demands.

"Especially during the rainy season, commercial bikes used to charge people to carry them on their backs. Since we've made those modifications, we have not had any problems during the rainy season."

Ahmadou Gueye, Country Technical Director of CSE in Sierra Leone, says CSE enjoys the challenge of doing the impossible and venturing into territories, its competitors are afraid to tread at a price that is affordable but with quality in mind.

"We have great quality, competitive prices, and we already have our equipment and machinery here in Sierra Leone, so we do not have the added costs of bringing what we need here. This gives us advantages over our competitors."

In addition to the recently-completed Lumney Beach Road in Freetown, CSE is also working on the Peninsula Highway budgeted at $l20 million originally penciled in for a two-lane carriageway but is now on course for a four-lane carriageway with an improved structure due to the foreseen increase of traffic which will involve increasing of cost and completion time.

Today, the company is leading the charge to modernize Freetown and is currently involved in road rehabilitation and construction of 30 streets in the capital for a total of 25 km including the construction of the Hillside Bye Pass Road.

The route gives the city of Freetown another alternative to Kissy road for the traffic which will definitely improve mobility in Freetown from the Centre to the Eastern parts.

Ahmadou Diop, a former Director for CSE Sierra Leone said during last week's inauguration of the Lumney Beach Road in Freetown that CSE which has been involved in construction in the country for decades is proud of its accomplishments. "We have been here when things were very difficult during the war. Now it is time for enjoyment, to stand beside Sierra Leoneans. "

"We have been involved in a lot of road projects. From the road to Conakry, the Peninsula road, Lumney Beach and the soon-to-be completed Hillside road.

As one of the leading construction companies in Africa, we strive in serving as a beacon of hope for what we can do as Africans. The EU is aware of the capacity of CSE that is why they keep coming back to us."

Ahmadou Gueye agrees: "We are committed to the Sierra Leone market where we have been operating for more than 25 years. We are part of the past, present and future of Sierra Leone. This is now a safe, peaceful country where business can be done without problems."

In Sierra Leone, the European Commission has strong confidence in CSE's work, investing, along with the government of Sierra Leone, some US$400 million in road and bridge works.

With such an impressive trail of work, hopes are high that the company could be called upon to link Sierra Leone with Liberia by paved road. The company completed the 85 km Freetown - Conakry Highway in June 2011 considered the best road in Sierra Leone.

Last week, Ambassador Peter Versteeg, Head of Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Sierra Leone used the occasion of the 64th anniversary of Europe Day Friday which coincided with the inauguration of the once rugged Lumley Beach Road to announce that the deal for the Liberia-Sierra Leone border road had been sealed.

Said Ambassador Versteeg: "Today on Europe Day, it is my pleasure to announce that the European Commission in Brussels has just signed the main financing agreement for the Bandajuma-Liberian border road, which links Sierra Leone to Liberia."

"This program aims to support the rehabilitation of some 100 kilometers of highway and key bridges. The entire project entails a financial contribution of 107 million Euros.

This new project, which will soon be sent to tender aims to boost West African activities, reintegration and trade between Sierra Leone and Liberia."

When completed the road will increase the West Africa sub-regional economic activity and connectivity to reduce poverty in the concerned areas as well as reduce vehicle operating costs, travel time and accidents.

For the foreseeable future, CSE is eyeing the ambitious challenge of expanding the Robertsfield Highway into a four-lane road. Knowing the global economic situation, CSE is proposing to seek financing for the road.

It presented a proposal and the engineering design in December 2013 for RIA Highway to the Ministry of Public Works but has not heard from the Ministry or the government of Liberia.

The company is hoping that the project will be a perfect opportunity for Liberians to see firsthand, CSE's capabilities.

"I think what sets us apart from others is the fact that we are one hundred percent Africans", Sow says. "Because CSE works with local contractors and with strategic partners, and it is open to forming more international partnerships to which it can bring its exceptional experience in African markets."

FrontPageAfrica Africa has learned from sources that some individuals are not satisfied over the selection of an African company to construct the road and has been making it difficult to sign the contract.

One government insider noted that Africans are capable of constructing modern roads as shown around Africa today.

The Robertsfield Highway was constructed in the sixties by a Liberian firm, Mensah Construction Company. Over 98 percent of all the employees then were Liberians. This road lasted for years.

Said one government source: "Low level employees were not brought into the country like we see today with some foreign construction companies. Africans are capable of doing what most non-African do today; therefore, should not be afraid of CSE.

A source at the Executive Mansion tells FPA that the president is concerned about CSE, and GOL signing the contract to start construction work and also, who is holding it up.

Is it MPW or MOF? CSE is ready to start and jobs will be created for some Nimba Citizens when actual construction starts.

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