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The Dolisie road, part of the RN1 linking Pointe Noire to Brazzaville. Photos Provided to China Daily
Congo and its investment partners are making exciting inroads in infrastructure development
Structurally speaking, Congo has seen many long-envisaged projects become world-class realities, thanks to a willing and cohesive government and the careful management of the General Delegation of Grands Travaux (Grands Travaux) - an entity made up of the boards of the National Congo-Ocean Railway, the Autonomous Port of Brazzaville and the Autonomous Port of Pointe Noire.
Headed by Jean Jacques Bouya, Grands Travaux collaborates with international players through bilateral and multilateral partnerships in order to transform the country.
China, France, South Africa, Brazil, The African Development Bank, the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa and the World Bank have all contributed to Congo's modernization.
As one of the most dynamic non-oil sectors, the construction sector offers huge potential. Representing around 4 percent of GDP, the sector has been liberalized in response to a very strong demand and is set to take off in the near future.
A growing population, coupled with a shortage of homes, schools, hospitals, and transport links has left the government calling for foreign investment to help rebuild the country.
Last year, an ambitious road-building program began in the capital, Brazzaville, in honor of the country's 50th anniversary of independence, and other major works are coming to fruition.
A gas-fired power station at Djno has been built at a cost of $398,4 million, homes are being built on oil industry sites and the railways, a key transport option for this vast country, are being modernized.
Cooperation from the international business community is of the utmost importance for Congo, and the President is keen to open the country to the rest of the world.
China is already one of the country's most hands-on partners, having signed many contracts with Congo in various infrastructural sectors.
Enjoying a relationship based on solidarity and mutual benefits, the partnership between the two countries has seen more than 10 major projects completed in recent years.
These include the highway between Pointe Noire and Brazzaville - a gigantic project that has required tremendous technical prowess and financing -, the construction of new terminals at Maya-Maya and Ollombo airports, a hospital in Oyo offering primary and secondary health care, modern housing initiatives, the Imboulou Hydroelectric Power Station and its electrical distribution network, a sophisticated fiber-optic network and water treatment stations.
Two French companies are also playing their part in the country's development through an agreement with CFCO. The deal includes the repair and maintenance of 15 locomotives, 25 wagons and 21 meters of container ship, as well as the construction.
The project is being backed by Korean company Sung Shin Rolling Stock Technology, which is providing 23 new wagons with air-conditioning, and the delivery of a back-up generator of 1,200 kilovolt-ampere for the CFCO's workshops in Pointe Noire.
Andrade Gutierrez, one of three major Brazilian construction companies, is building two national highways and is also in charge of Ewo's city roads.
In Brazzaville, the company has already completed a significant part of the city's main axes.
The French Development Agency is funding the extension of the road along the Congo River, the urban renovation of Brazzaville districts, Maklkl and Bacongo, and the water evacuation system of Brazzaville.
Congo is also working closely with South African companies RRL Grindrod and Sibanye Trade and Services to acquire four new locomotives, two second-hand locomotives and the renovation and maintenance of six more.
All these initiatives are aimed at strengthening the present dilapidated railwork, and will raise the traction power which was previously limited to 2,400 CV.
As well as making traveling more comfortable for passengers, it will also allow goods to be transported far more freely.
Improving regional links
Regional links are also being set up to improve trade and accessibility between the countries in Central Africa.
The African Development Bank, part of the art of the infrastructure network within the region supported by the New Economic Partnership for Africa's Development, has launched a number of regional integration projects with financial contributions of the states involved.
These include the link road between Congo and Cameroon (Ketta-Djoum), the road connecting Congo to Gabon (Dolisie-Doussala) and the bridge road and railtrack between Brazzaville and Kinshasa with the train from Pointe Noire continuing to Kinshasa-Ilebo.
In the meantime, a rail connection will join Franceville, in the east of Gabon, the country's second largest city to Lekety, a small city situated a few hundred kilometers north of Brazzaville. There will also be a link joining Libreville, the capital of Gabon, to Djibouti on the Horn of Africa.
The RN1 highway, which links the port town of Pointe Noire to the bustling capital has breathed new life into the country. The construction of main roads and secondary offshoots has in turn, created direct jobs for hundreds of Congolese workers.
RN1 also plays an important regional role by linking Congo to its neighbor, the Democratic Republic of Congo. The financing of the road and railway bridge has seen a whole new economic opportunity open, particularly with the DRC's lack of a seaport.
Now the DRC, a country with a population of more than 71 million people, will be able to reap the advantages of being able to pass its imports and exports through Congo's Port of Pointe Noire.
Other new roads include the RN3, linking Gabon to Congo, which will enable the cities of Ndend and Mouila to receive their goods faster.
The Central African Republic, a landlocked nation, will also benefit from these transport links. Small business links between South Cameroon and Congo have also benefited from a new connection between Brazzaville - Ouesso - Douala.
Entry points revamped
The Autonomous Port of Pointe Noire is another key factor in Congo's economy. Last year, revenues were higher than previous years and benefited from a $60,6 million budget allocation for growth and modernization.
The Autonomous Port of Brazzaville is still struggling to perform well, however, and is considered a thorn in the side of a transport network that is, on the whole, moving quickly in the right direction. The government hopes to find a solution soon.
As most travelers know, the true nature of a country can be gleaned as soon as the plane touches down in a new destination. Airports are not just entry points, but also the first impression a new visitor gets of the country he or she is about to stay or do business in.
President Denis Sassou N'Guesso's administration's decision to upgrade the country's airports shows Congo's willingness to open up to the outside world.
Built by Weihai International Economic Technical Cooperative Co Ltd, a Chinese development company, the airport in Maya Maya is the latest entry point to be given a makeover.
With two landing strips and two terminals, renovation should be completed by the end of this year.
The runway can accommodate the world's largest aircraft, while the new airport will feature a basement entirely covered with glass and seven air passenger bridges, two of which will be able to fit the largest planes. Officials hope to welcome 2 million passengers a year.
The airport has parking capacity for up to 800 cars and a world-class hotel is being built in close proximity.
InFocus provided the story
(China Daily 06/28/2012 page19)