Sierra Leone is set to invest US $2bn to link its capital city Freetown to the country’s only international airport, through construction of a 7km bridge.
Speaking during opening of project tender ceremony, President Julius Maada Bio, said that the project aims at making the airport more accessible. Freetown International Airport at Lungi is currently accessible only by boat or helicopter, separated from the capital by the nearly five km wide mouth of the Rokel river.
“I will closely superintend the entire process and ensure that every tender is compliant and every tender is in the best long-term interest of Sierra Leone,” said President Julius.
Upon completion the bridge may be ranked to be the largest infrastructure project in the west African country. The 7km-long bridge is intended to end the “logistical nightmare” facing travelers arriving at Lungi, formerly a British air base located.
According to James Turner, an official from Sierra Leone’s transportation ministry, the project would take between four and five years to complete. The idea of the bridge was settled on, but the government has been deterred from starting because of its capital cost, which is equal to about half of its GDP. President Julius Maada Bio however believes it will be feasible using the public–private model.
Bio first proposed the bridge project to the state-funded Chinese firm, Power China International during a visit to Beijing last September. A month later, he axed a plan of his predecessor’s to build a new US $400m airport closer to the capital with Chinese labor and loans.
“I believe infrastructural investments should not burden the country with huge debt. They should be financed in a way that the public and future generations are not liable for that debt. So, we are not going to build a bridge or an airport for which the people of Sierra Leone are going to pay back a high-interest loan for 10, 20, or 30 years. That simply does not make economic sense. Five European and Asian companies have already expressed an interest in the scheme,” Said his excellency.