An earthmoving machine levels the ground for the construction of the new Mbour-Fatick-Kaolack motorway
A temporary market serving mostly regional travellers is bustling near Keur Balla Lo located at the intersection of Route Nationale 1 (RN1) and under-construction Mbour-Fatick-Kaolack motorway, which is an extension of the motorway connecting Thiès to Mbour via Blaise Diagne International Airport (AIBD). On this August morning, numerous workers are vigorously building the Keur Balla Lo bridge to facilitate the motorway’s crossing of the RN1.
The motorway is the third road project of China Road and Bridge Corp. (CRBC) in Senegal, following the completion of the Thiès-Touba motorway, commonly referred to as “Ila Touba,” and the Mbour-AIBD-Thiès motorway.
This two-lane, 100-km project, when completed, will reduce traffic congestion on the RN1 and promote agriculture, tourism and regional trade. Furthermore, it will ease access to the country’s central and eastern regions and enhance the development of the Dakar-Bamako and Dakar-Lagos routes, which are critical to the Economic Community of West African States. Furthermore, it will ease access to the country’s central and eastern regions.
Shen Qifang, deputy managing director of CRBC Senegal, calls this motorway project a significant achievement in Sino-Senegalese collaboration. Launched in November 2021, it was expected to be completed within four years. Shen said 40 percent of the work has been completed, which includes the connecting roads between the main cities. The progress for the 21 bridges and three interchanges in the major cities is at 20 percent.
“As per the current schedule, we aim to finish most of the work by the end of 2025,” Shen revealed, adding that they will commence the construction of the 22-km Mbour-Thiadiaye portion soon.
Group photo of Chinese and Senegalese technicians working on the Mbour-Fatick-Kaolack motorway
The project is expected to bring significant economic benefits to the region. “Presently, 2,000 locals from 40 villages in 17 surrounding communities are involved in the project,” mentioned Shen. He anticipates this number to increase to 4,000 during peak times. Once completed, the motorway is expected to generate approximately 300 direct jobs and 2,500 indirect jobs. Shen predicts the project will create a grand total of 5,000 jobs throughout its lifetime.
During the construction phase, 20 local companies in fields such as electricity, water supply, energy, transport, machinery and construction materials collaborated. The project procured key raw materials like cement, sand, gravel and bitumen from local enterprises, propelling the economy with a substantial spin-off of hundreds of millions of dollars.
The project has a total cost of $738 million, with 81 percent of the funding being provided by a concessionary loan from the Export-Import Bank of China and the remaining 19 percent being covered by the Senegalese government. Bocar Mbow, director of motorways at Ageroute, confirmed that compensation totalling 3.5 billion CFA francs ($58 million) has been paid out to approximately 2,000 individuals affected by the project, and 98 percent of the land required has been acquired. Mbow said that multiple infrastructures, including health centres, secondary roads, classrooms and agricultural tracks, have been initiated in the regions impacted most by the project.
In terms of the constraints faced, Mbow mentioned the procurement of land as a particular problem. Nonetheless, these challenges were gradually overcome through the cooperation of the authorities. “With the steadfast backing of the Senegalese government, the Chinese Embassy in Senegal and other institutions, as well as cooperation from the local community, we overcame challenges,” Shen noted.
As part of the collaboration between China and Senegal under the Belt and Road Initiative and the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, CRBC Senegal has constructed multiple motorways throughout the country. Senegal is heavily investing in top-tier infrastructure across various sectors to advance the country’s development.
One notable example is the Thiès-Touba toll motorway, a 113-km project completed by CRBC Senegal. This motorway was recognised as the best road project worldwide in 2019 by the Engineering News Record. For Shen, the project epitomises the cooperative efforts between China and Senegal, thus becoming the first high-quality infrastructure initiative in Senegal to gain global recognition.
CRBC Senegal manages multiple major projects in the country, including the Thiès-Touba motorway and the Nelson Mandela Bridge in Foundiougne. Since the launch of these projects, toll revenues have increased by 59.38 percent, and there has been an average daily traffic increase of 58.71 percent. Furthermore, Shen noted that these roads have not only decreased accidents and traffic congestion but also contributed to the economic and social development of Senegal, describing them as “roads of development, prosperity and friendship.”
An overview of the intersection of the Mbour-FatickKaolack motorway and Route Nationale 1 at Keur Balla Lo, Senegal
More to come
In response to the Senegalese government’s infrastructure initiative, CRBC Senegal is aiding the construction of the Voie de Dégagement Nord motorway, and the Dakar-Saint-Louis motorway (Louga-Gandon section). Shen stressed that these infrastructure projects will ease traffic flow in the capital and provide smoother access to the important arteries of the northern region, which will promote the development of agriculture, oil exploration and tourism.
Additionally, Shen announced plans for a national laboratory in partnership with Ageroute. The laboratory will focus on basic science and technology research, as well as key technologies related to the construction and operation of Senegal’s motorways. This initiative aims to optimally respond to Senegal’s development needs.
Shen added that CRBC Senegal has sponsored 15 Senegalese students to study in China. Upon their return, some of them participated in important projects, including the Dakar Bus Rapid Transit and the Mbour-Fatick-Kaolack motorway, besides being responsible for overseeing other motorways supervised by CRBC Senegal.
“Their China training will enable them to actively contribute to Senegal’s growth and development,” he said while announcing that another group of 15 students will be sent to China this year for effective technology transfer.
Regarding the management of the Mbour-Fatick-Kaolack motorway, Shen highlighted that 99 percent of the workforce is Senegalese. He further noted that various training sessions have been provided to them, enriching their knowledge and skills in motorway construction and management.