Ivory Coast inaugurates 1st toll road

Ivory Coast on Thursday inaugurated its first-ever toll road, featuring a 240km dual highway linking capital Yamoussoukro to commercial capital Abidjan

Ivory Coast on Thursday inaugurated its first-ever toll road, featuring a 240km dual highway linking capital Yamoussoukro to commercial capital Abidjan

ABIDJAN – Ivory Coast on Thursday inaugurated its first-ever toll road, featuring a 240km dual highway linking capital Yamoussoukro to commercial capital Abidjan.

"We are introducing a toll road in Ivory Coast for the first time because we know it will be beneficial to the authorities and users," Infrastructure Minister Patrick Achi told Anadolu Agency.

"Tolls collected will contribute to repaying the 35 billion francs [roughly $70 million] borrowed from local investors to finance part of the project and for maintenance and a couple of other services," he said.

Motorists will pay tolls of between 2500 and 10,000 francs (approximately $5 to $20), depending on vehicle size and commercial purposes.

Built last December by Tunisian engineering firm Soroubat, the highway features several modern amenities, including a medical center, parking areas, a video surveillance system and radar control.

Thanks to the new highway, the drive from Yamoussoukro to Abidjan will now take less than three hours, compared to five hours previously.

The Ivorian government is investing heavily in transportation infrastructure with a view to upgrading its dilapidated road network, with a $320 million toll bridge under construction in Abidjan set for completion in December.

"We are aiming to be an emerging nation by 2020, so everybody has to participate in a small way," said Minister Achi.

-Backfire-

When asked if the new tolls might impact the prices of goods and services, Achi said that decisions regarding the new system had been reached after extensive consultations with the country's transport union and experts.

"Our tolls are some of the cheapest in the world and in Africa; I believe Ivorians will soon adapt to it," he told AA.

However, many Ivorians contend that the tolls are exorbitant – especially for a country introducing the scheme for the first time.

"This could be the beginning of a new [bout of] inflation in the country," Soumahoro N'faly, chairman of Ivory Coast's consumer union, told AA.

He warned that high toll fees could force transport companies to raise their fares, which could consequently trickle down to the local market.

"Transport companies will pounce on the high tolls to double their fares, while foodstuff sellers will do the same – then consumers will pay the price," N'faly said.

Truck drivers who supply food and livestock to Abidjan – the country's largest city, home to six million people – say the new fees will definitely affect their budgets, which they will likely offset by raising the prices of their goods.

"I used to ply the old road twice every other day without paying any fee. Now I'm being forced to pay 10,000 francs [roughly $20] twice in a to-and-fro journey," 43-year-old truck driver Toure Ahmed told AA in Abidjan.

"I think it's a loss. No businessperson wants to lose," he said.

"We'll definitely spread the tolls on the goods we'll be transporting and see who will lose on the chain," Ahmed added.

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