Lungi Bridge

 

President Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio’s ‘New Direction’ government has embarked on the construction of 8 kilometer long Freetown-Lungi Bridge, which is arguably the most expensive and ambitious capital intensive infrastructural development project since independence.

At a specially convened meeting at State House recently, President Bio announced the opening of bidding process for the contract to construct the 6 lane motorway bridge that will cost between US$1.8 billion and $2.1 billion. Giving the cost-benefit of the Bridge, the President told the nation that it would rake in US$11.2 billion in the 25 years that the builder will operate it as a toll-gate bridge after which ownership will be transferred to the Government of Sierra Leone.

For a country plagued with a high amount of youth unemployment, in the 4 to 6 years that the bridge’s construction would take, it is expected to create 3, 500 local jobs annually for a range of skills and technical competences in the construction industry.

Whilst critics of the bridge have frowned at the cost of building it, given competing pressing needs of the people, the government believes that the bridge has many socioeconomic benefits for the people of Freetown, Lungi, the North and the country at large. These include the transformation of Lungi into an economic free zone, building of an international conference center, a five star hotel, and expansion of the airport to cater for more flights and passengers including cargo.

On the Freetown side of the bridge, its ancillary benefits will include the new coastal road running along the coast from Portee in the east of capital to Goderich in the west  that will facilitate the free movement of traffic and reclamation of 60 acres of land for development from squatters.

It could be recalled that President Bio on an official visit to China in September last year at the invitation of President Xi Jiping to attend the 2018 China-Africa summit in a meeting with the state funded China Power International Company told its Chairman of his government’s desire to construct the Lungi Bridge to which the latter responded positively that it will send a team of experts to do a feasibility study.

President Bio at the bidding ceremony stated that the Government Treasury will not be burdened with repaying the loan for the bridge’s construction, as like the Wellington to Masiaka toll road, which is a Public-Private-partnership project, it will be built and operated as a toll charging motorway.

At the ceremony, Presidential Press Secretary, Kekehtoma Sandy noted that the bridge is a vivid example of a president who does not believe in developing only his stronghold. Chief Minister Prof. David Francis underscored that the bridge is an infrastructural priority for the new direction government as the entire package includes the benefits outlined earlier above.

It could also be recalled that President Bio in his keynote address at the United Kingdom (UK)-Sierra Leone Trade and Investment Forum recently held in London said that to develop the country, his emphasis would be on infrastructural development, using the private sector as the main driver. “We see infrastructural developments as critical enablers for investment,” he said.

That, he said, was why he established an Office of Presidential Infrastructural Initiatives in the presidency headed by an engineer of great pedigree. “This guarantees that I get first-hand advice on the purposeful and timely planning and implementation of growth-oriented infrastructural initiatives,” he said, adding that the government is committed to working with investors and private capital to plan and develop infrastructure. “We are guided by the key principles of competitive bidding, sound debt-management policy and transparent and independent feasibility studies when pursuing infrastructure investments,” the President said.