Phase II of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) experts meeting to construct a six-lane road to connect seven coastal countries in West Africa will end today in Monrovia.
The meeting, which began March 1, 2017, expects experts to give an update about implementation status of the highway.
The experts are also expected to present a draft architecture design of the road outlook and adopt a final report, which they will take to a ministerial meeting at a later date.
The highway referred to as "Dakar-Abidjan Road Corridor," begins from Dakar, Senegal to Abidjan, the Ivory Coast, is estimated at US$13 billion. Countries to benefit along the West African coast will include La Cote d'Ivoire, Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Guinea Bissau, The Gambia and Senegal.
This project, according to Dr. Antoinette Weeks, Commissioner for Infrastructure for ECOWAS Commission, is part of the Trans-Africa Highway that begins from Lagos, Nigeria to Abidjan.
The other side of the Trans-Africa Highway, which has already been constructed, covers Ivory Coast, Ghana, Benin, Togo and Nigeria.
Phase I of this major infrastructural meeting was held in Banjul, the Gambia where a treaty that will be binding on all member states to contribute in every way to the construction was drafted.
"In order for the project to be implemented, the heads-of-state must endorse the treaty, Dr. Weeks said, adding, "By their endorsement, we the experts will have the authority and the commitment from our respective heads-of-states to start implementing the project."
The Treaty is the guiding principle that will be binding on all coastal countries benefiting from the road project in the region.
Dr. Weeks said the seven heads-of-state in the Dakar Abidjan Corridor have agreed to the road construction, but are yet to sign the Treaty; something for which the experts are in Monrovia to share ideas and come out with a result that they will take to the heads-of-state for their respective signatures.
"Upon signing the treaty," Dr. Weeks added, "We will be sourcing the fund and negotiating for the engineer design. We want to build a road that after 40 years from the day of dedication will still be in a good condition."
"No one needs to stress the importance of the highway," she said, "because it will make traveling easier by driving to any West African country without high cost of flight."
ECOWAS Ambassador to Liberia, Babatunde Olanrewaju Ajisomo, said, "The presence of the experts is a delight as they will be discussing issues to address the infrastructure challenge afflicting the sub-region, which is road."
Like Dr. Weeks, Amb. Ajisomo said, "The highway will support ECOWAS regional integration agenda to stimulate economic and social development in our countries to reduce poverty as well as improve security in the region."
He said construction of the highway in addition to the first five, will back ECOWAS protocol on free movement and goods in member countries.
He said it has a multi dimensional benefit to the region that the importance of the road cannot be quantified.
In article 2 of the treaty under discussion, the Dakar-Abidjan Corridor has the objectives to facilitate safe and efficient movement of persons and goods, regional trade and transport by improving on the road infrastructure and simplifying; harmonizing the requirements and controls that govern the movement of goods and persons with a view to reducing transportation costs and transit times.
Article 4 sets the guiding principles for the contracting parties involving the seven countries to cooperate and demonstrate transparency in funding, development, management and operation of the corridor, show solidarity and mutual assistance in matters of customs, immigration, security, health and others where need be, and give support through solidarity to anybody created under the treaty to act on their behalf.
Article 6 of the Treaty also sets obligation for contracting parties to undertake the necessary technical studies on the different segments of the corridor, construct works and supervision for the 2x3 Dual Carriage Highway, introduce modern Tolling Systems based on appropriate studies and best practices in Road Financing, and ensure implementation of road safety measures and the sensitization of social epidemics including HIV/AIDS, along the corridor and its area of influence.
Meanwhile road infrastructure and immigration system have remained major problems to integration and trade in Africa despite the establishments of various regional organizations including the African Union.
African billionaire, Dangote at the US-Africa Leaders Summit in 2014 told the media that as businesspeople on the African continent, they were finding it difficult to forge ahead with trade due to barriers created by poor road infrastructure and tough visa policy in most countries.
Also at the 49th Annual Meetings of the African Development Bank (AfDB) in Kigali, Rwanda, President Paul Kagame said that African integration will depend on road connections and relaxed visa policy that will allow Africans to move freely and do business in various countries on the continent.
President Kagame said they in the East African bloc were enhancing regional integration by connecting their respective countries by roads and railways, and have introduced a policy that those in the region do not need visa to stay in one country.