Transport infrastructure upgrades in Côte d'Ivoire


Côte d’Ivoire’s transport sector has attracted significant attention in recent years, due to the extensive infrastructure projects that are under way throughout the country, concurrently enhancing air, sea, rail and road connectivity. These projects are set to enable greater passenger flows and increased cargo capacity.

While major infrastructure development is imperative for the country’s economic growth and offers opportunities for investment, the ongoing development of major projects risks adding strain to Côte d’Ivoire’s existing road, port and rail networks. Funding from a number of multilateral and international organisations, as well as some domestic firms, will provide a greater amount of support to the government’s financing efforts. In the long term this is set reduce the time and cost of transporting passengers and goods, leading to enhanced economic opportunity and improved quality of life, particularly for those in the country’s urban centres.

Public Sector Commitment

Côte d’Ivoire’s transport sector was allocated over $10bn as part of the National Development Plan (Plan National de Dé veloppement, PND) 2016-20, which accounts for almost a quarter of the country’s total $44.2bn budget for the economic blueprint. A key development objective underlying the PND is for Côte d’Ivoire to achieve emerging market status. A strong transport network is essential for this: it offers opportunities to boost productivity; enables the formation and growth of commercial and residential centres; and is essential for the fast and cost-effective delivery of goods.

Côte d’Ivoire has seen strong GDP growth, which averaged around 8% between 2012 and 2018, and ranks among the world’s top-10 fastest-growing economies, according to the IMF’s 2019 “World Economic Outlook”. The urbanisation that comes with such economic growth and the strain it can place on the transport network underlines the importance of developing the country’s transport infrastructure.

The Ministry of Transport was designated a budget of CFA213.8bn ($367.5m) for 2020. Among the important projects set to benefit from this funding are the development of the national carrier, Air Côte d’Ivoire; the expansion of Abidjan airport; Abidjan’s metro system; and urgently needed road rehabilitation.

Road Networks

Côte d’Ivoire’s road network comprises over 4000 km of urban roads, 82,100 km of intercity links, and a 230-km highway between Abidjan and Yamoussoukro. In 2018 local media reported plans to build 330 km of new highways and a 1000-km highway between Yamoussoukro and Ouagadougou, though no official update was available as of late April 2020.

Road construction and maintenance works throughout the country have been under way since 2012, with a focus on both new and improved transport connections, resulting in the gradual improvement of road conditions (see analysis). Key organisations include the Road Maintenance Fund, which was established in 2001 to provide and manage the financing of road projects – a role that includes ensuring payments to small and medium-sized enterprises and large firms involved in road works are processed on time – and the Agency for Road Infrastructure (l’Agence de Gestion des Routes, AGEROUTE), which manages roads, maintenance works and security. The government’s National Road Development Programme 2016-25, unveiled in August 2016, is set to see CFA3.8trn ($6.5bn) injected into road network development projects.

AGEROUTE announced in February 2018 that an estimated CFA1.5trn ($2.6bn) would be allocated to repairing damaged roads. “The country has improved its infrastructure network over the past few years, but it is not enough to meet its full potential,” Patrick Assi, director-general of Logis Côte d’Ivoire, told OBG. “Roads need more refurbishment because most of them are not in good shape.” Around a quarter, or $72.4m, of AGEROUTE’s financing commitment has been dedicated to the rehabilitation and expansion of roads inside Abidjan. One of the city’s most used roads, the 13.4-km Boulevard de Marseille, will also benefit from an expansion and improved connectivity to adjacent roads. Launched in October 2018, the boulevard expansion is slated for completion in 2021.

In February 2019, an agreement was signed between ECOWAS, the EU and the African Development Bank (AfDB) to finance a study for the Abidjan-Lagos highway project. Almost five years on from the initial 2014 signing of the treaty to establish the highway, the latest framework lays out a study on the technical, implementation and operational aspects of the proposed 1080-km, six-lane development. Agreements were also signed to evaluate the road’s socio-economic implications, conduct an environmental impact assessment and begin engineering and design studies. The road aims to boost trade and economic integration, and enhance prosperity across the region, supported by $12.6m of funding from the AfDB and €10.4m from the EU. The highway is set to connect some of Africa’s largest cities, including Abidjan, Accra, Cotonou, Lomé and Lagos. It will also link seaports in West Africa to the landlocked nations of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.

Urban Mobility

Increasing urbanisation and population growth in cities such as Abidjan – whose 4.9m-strong population in 2018 was forecast to grow by 3.4% annually over the 2015-20 period – adds significant strain to existing transport infrastructure. This challenge is exacerbated by gaps in Côte d’Ivoire’s public transportation networks and can impede the ease of doing business in the country. “Logistics are a key factor for the region’s supply chain, and a lack of good infrastructure means the absence of free-flowing traffic, an increase in the number of accidents and a rise in transport prices,” Assi told OBG.

Transport costs can cause a considerable barrier to growth. For instance, some of the lowest-income households in Abidjan spend up to 20-30% of their earnings on transport, as well as up to 200 minutes per day in transit or waiting for transportation, according to a February 2019 report from the World Bank. The report suggests that a 20% improvement in the city’s urban mobility could generate gains of around 1% of GDP, as well as a substantial improvement in the quality of life of residents. “Since 2011 significant infrastructure projects have been completed not only in Abidjan but throughout the rest of the country,” Alhi Keita, managing director of local road construction firm Moving Road, told OBG. “However, more investment needs to be allocated to fix feeder roads in order to speed up the transportation of goods.”

The Abidjan Urban Transport Project 2017-21 was designed to increase the city’s competitiveness by improving the mobility of goods and people travelling via road. The project includes the construction of approximately 88 km of urban expressways; a 1400-metre long bridge, which will constitute Abidjan’s fourth bridge and link Yopougon directly to the city centre; and six interchanges. The project, which will also include the rehabilitation of traffic lights at 89 intersections, seeks to ease traffic flow, strengthen urban management, and improve the quality of life for those living and working in the city. The total expected financing requirement of €770m is set to be sourced from multiple stakeholders: the AfDB, which will account for 74%; Côte d’Ivoire, which will contribute 17%; the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) 8%; and the Global Environment Facility 1%. While the efforts to construct new road networks mark a positive step, it will also be imperative to repair pre-existing roads around the city.

The World Bank’s executive board approved financing to the tune of $300m in June 2019 for the Abidjan Urban Mobility Project, expected to require investment totalling $540m. The development will include the establishment of a bus rapid transit line, carrying riders along the 32-km Yopougon-Bingerville route in less than an hour, passing through the business district of Plateau. With a maximum timeline of six years, according to the financing agreement, the project is designed not only to enhance the efficiency of travel along its route but also to improve access to economic and social opportunity as a result of better connectivity.

Abidjan Metro

First announced in 2017, the Abidjan Metro is expected to start construction by the end of 2020, though delays are likely due to the outbreak of Covid-19. Development of the 37.5-km rapid transit network had initially been delayed due to cost concerns, technical difficulties, and long negotiations between the Ivorian government and French group Bouygues, the chief of the consortium working on the project. An agreement was reached in October 2019, and the estimated investment of CFA893.8bn ($1.5bn) will be fully financed by France and built by Bouygues Travaux Publics and Alstom’s Colas Rail and Keolis. The project is expected to create around 2000 direct employment opportunities. Line 1 of the metro will connect Anyama, a suburb in the north, to PortBouët and Abidjan International Airport – also known as Félix Houphouët-Boigny Airport – in the south. The full journey should take around 50 minutes and will include stops at 20 stations. The first section, from Anyama centre to Lagoon Plateau, is anticipated to be completed by mid-2023. The second section, from Lagoon Plateau to Abidjan International Airport, is expected to reach completion by mid-2024. When finished, the Abidjan Metro will have capacity for 530,000 passengers daily and support the rising visitor flows passing through the city’s airport.

Aviation Hubs

Côte d’Ivoire’s aviation sector has witnessed a significant rise in activity. The country has three international airports located in Abidjan, Yamoussoukro and Bouaké. Abidjan International Airport accounts for 90% of the country’s total air traffic; is serviced by 22 airlines, including national carrier Air Côte d’Ivoire; and generates 95% of the aviation industry’s profits. It is managed and operated by Aeria, a subsidiary of French company Egis, under a concession agreement valid until 2030. Abidjan International Airport saw increased activity in the first quarter of 2019, with the number of commercial passengers rising from 430,880 in the first quarter of 2018 to 467,936. The positive performance is largely attributable to a growth in national traffic – which marked an increase of approximately 81.5% year-on-year increase in the first quarter of 2019 – following the reopening of San Pedro airport after it had closed for renovation in early 2018. International traffic also increased, with arrivals from ECOWAS member countries increasing by 4.5%, the rest of Africa by 5.9% and Europe by 4.8%. “The number of passengers travelling through the Abidjan airport grew from 1.6m in 2015 to an estimated 2.3m in 2019,” Jean Francois Cottel, CFO of Aeria, told OBG.

Aeria also handled 24,800 tonnes of international cargo and postal shipments in 2018, and aimed to reach 30,000 tonnes in 2019, Cottel told OBG. Results from early in the year suggest the airport was on track to reach its targeted increase of around 20%: the 6270 tonnes of goods that passed through the airport in the first quarter of 2019 marked a 33.2% growth rate compared to a year earlier. Full-year figures were not yet available as of late April 2020.

Air Côte d’Ivoire has played a significant role in the growth of the country’s air transportation network, seeing its passenger numbers increasing at an average annual rate of 19% between 2012 and 2019. This progress is likely an early-stage marker of success in the airline’s modernisation and expansion plan, a 10-year growth strategy outlining the carrier’s development from 2016 onwards. Operating under a public-private partnership model, the roadmap includes a combination of financing strategies and policy solutions.

Key aims for the national airline include the acquisition of five Airbus A320 series aircraft in order to increase the number of regional air connections from 19 in 2016 to 23 in 2026, and as a consequence boost passenger traffic by two-thirds, from 720,000 in 2016 to 1.2m by 2030. The outbreak of Covid-19 in early 2020 is expected to significantly diminish estimated growth and arrival numbers in Côte d’Ivoire as well as around the world. However, if the sector’s long-term aims are achieved, the contribution of aviation to GDP will grow from 2.7% in 2016 to 4% in 2030. In line with these expansion plans, Air Côte d’Ivoire will also address the human capital deficit in the country’s aviation sector by supporting the training of pilots and aircraft technicians. It is also establishing a business plan to open a regional aviation training centre in Yamoussoukro. The airline signed an agreement in 2019 with the National School of Civil Aviation in Toulouse to support the training of 77 Ivorian pilots and 120 aviation technicians at the French institution in 2020.

Air Capacity Expansion

In an effort to boost capacity, the Ministry of Transport concluded a bilateral air services agreement with China in June 2018, which laid down the fundamental legal basis for establishing aviation links between the two countries. The conclusion of the agreement will cement the legal framework for the two countries to develop civil aviation relations and to facilitate the start of direct flights by airlines from both nations, as well as to explore economic and trade cooperation.

Under the concession agreement it signed with the government in 2010, Aeria is obliged to invest CFA80bn ($137.5m) into airport infrastructure upgrades to help boost passenger capacity to 3m by 2030. To this end, in 2015 the company pledged €63m to a five-year development programme in partnership with the government to increase capacity. The programme provides for the construction of 11 new parking stands for short- and medium-haul aircraft, the extension of the existing long-haul parking area and the construction of a taxiway parallel to the runway, which will triple the runway’s capacity at peak hours.

By facilitating the flow of people, capital and goods, the aviation sector is playing an important role in the growth of the country’s trade, tourism and international investment inflows. As a result, the development of Abidjan International Airport is expected to have major socioeconomic benefits when the global slump driven by Covid-19 is over: the project is expected to create and maintain more than 3700 jobs and should contribute around €205m to GDP.

While strides are being made to improve the aviation sector, some hurdles remain. “Challenges facing aviation in the country include bureaucratic obstacles, and difficulty in obtaining financing and capitalisation, as well as expensive insurance costs,” Laurent Loukou, deputy director-general of Air Côte d’Ivoire, told OBG. Other challenges include taxes and fees that remain much higher in Côte d’Ivoire than in other parts of the world. Indeed, this is an Africa-wide trend, with such charges amounting to as much as half of the total ticket cost in some markets. An additional obstacle in Côte d’Ivoire is elevated fuel prices, which at times can see prices rise to more than 25% above the global average.

Port Throughput

Despite ongoing challenges faced by African ports – including limited investment, inadequate transport facilities and high tariffs – container traffic across the continent, especially in West Africa, has continued to grow. Côte d’Ivoire is the fourth-largest exporter of goods in sub-Saharan Africa, behind South Africa, Nigeria and Angola, according to the Ministry of Economy and Finance. The state-owned Autonomous Port of Abidjan (Port Autonome d’Abidjan, PAA) is among Africa’s busiest ports, contributing some 90% of the Côte d’Ivoire’s Customs revenue and 60% of total state revenue in 2018.

The PAA and the Autonomous Port of San Pedro (Port Autonome de San Pedro, PASP) facilitate the supply of goods to landlocked countries in the region. Cargo traffic in both of these ports grew over 2018: the PAA experienced an increase of 7.6%, from 22.5m to 24.2m tonnes, while the PASP’s total rose by 55.2%, from 2.9m to 4.5m tonnes. While full-year 2019 figures were not available as of late April 2020, the PASP and the PAA’s performances suggest great potential for logistics and shipping in the medium term, particularly since the PAA is poised to benefit from ongoing expansion activity. In terms of container stocking capacity, the PAA’s existing capacity of 22,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) positions it as the leader in West Africa, with a total annual capacity of 1.3m TEUs.

Facility Expansion

Under the supervision of the Ministry of Transport, the PAA has embarked on a vast modernisation of its facilities. The current phase of expansion, covering the 2018-21 period, is expected to cost a total of $2bn. This will include a second terminal, which is set to more than double current capacity of the port to 2.8m TEUs per year. The terminal, priced at $496.3m and originally slated for completion in 2020, is to be operated by Maersk-owned APM Terminals, and French companies Bolloré and Bouygues.

“The new terminal will be operational by 2021”, Koen De Bakker, director-general of Côte d’Ivoire Terminal, told OBG. “There will be a significant increase in capacity, as it will double the volume of traded merchandise, decrease the congestion of the port, and increase transaction and expedition of containers heading to Burkina Faso, Mali, Ghana, Guinea and Togo.”

Additional modernisation works will include a JICA-financed €90m grain terminal, the port’s first roll-on/ roll-off terminal, led by multinational logistics group Grimaldi; and a planned mineral terminal to be initiated by Belgian terminal operator SEA-invest.

To further ease congestion and boost the appeal of the PAA, works to enlarge and deepen the Vridi canal, which connects the port to the Atlantic Ocean, began in 2015. The canal was widened from 200 to 350 metres and deepened from 14 to 22 metres, allowing passage to larger ships. The $256m infrastructure development was largely funded by Export-Import Bank of China, which provided 85% of the required capital, while the port authority contributed the remainder. Following the reopening of the canal in February 2019, the PAA can now receive ships carrying 10,000 containers, compared with 3500 under the previous limitations.

At the end of May 2019 the PAA witnessed a yearon-year increase in the traffic of goods, which grew by approximately 13.6% to 11.2m tonnes. Breaking this down, exports increased by 20.2%, while imports rose by 10.4%. The PAA remains an important asset for regional economic integration and development, and its growing capacity signals a promising future for the shipping and logistics segments.


Côte d’Ivoire’s railway system is part of a 1260-km route that links the country with Burkina Faso and Niger, and is key in transporting both passengers and cargo to these landlocked countries. The network is managed by Sitarail, a subsidiary of France’s Bolloré Group, under a concessional agreement with the authorities of both Côte d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso. Renewed in 2016 for 30 years, the agreement covers the operation, management, investment and maintenance of the tracks and stations.

To address numerous breakdowns and sudden halts in the rail network’s operations, Bolloré committed to investing CFA260bn ($446.9m) into infrastructure rehabilitation in December 2017. The first phase of the programme will receive an instalment of CFA85bn ($146.1m) to cover the 2018-21 period. This stage will encompass 831 km of track renewals, signalling equipment upgrades and the protection of 51 level crossings. Around 50 bridges are due to be repaired or replaced, and 31 stations modernised. The wider development roadmap, which spans the eight years until 2025, will see the addition of two new passenger trains and a new locomotive.

The developments to Côte d’Ivoire’s railway system are anticipated to ultimately quadruple annual passenger numbers, from 200,000 to 800,000, and to boost freight capacity from 800,000 tonnes to 5m tonnes by the time the upgrades are fully completed in 2025. The increased cargo capacity of the railway line will help leverage the greater port capacity enabled by the PAA expansion, and there is also opportunity to leverage higher passenger volumes flowing through Abidjan’s airport, metro and bus network, once these respective developments are completed.


Côte d’Ivoire has invested substantially in its transport system and is beginning to see progress in its air, sea, rail and road connectivity. Continued investment by both the government and international partners is set to continue improving the quality of roads and road management, as well as enhance domestic and international rail links, and the wider bus transport network. These solutions to urbanisation are also set to complement greater port and airport capacity, optimising the flow of both passengers and goods throughout the country.

The host of infrastructure developments under way is sure to enhance social and economic opportunity, and boost the ease of doing business in the country, which currently boasts strong GPD growth – all of which are necessary components for Côte d’Ivoire to secure emerging market status. The government is set to continue to its efforts to attract private investment to support its infrastructure projects, and the continued presence of international partners should be of assurance to private players that the country’s transport sector is a worthwhile investment destination.

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The Report: Cote d'Ivoire 2020

Transport chapter from The Report: Cote d'Ivoire 2020

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