The third bridge across Abidjan's Ebrie lagoon is on schedule for completion in December. It could cut commuting time in Ivory Coast's commercial capital from two hours to three minutes. Photo: Reuters

Abidjan - A third bridge crossing the lagoon in Ivory Coast’s economic capital, Abidjan, would be completed in December and could add 1 percentage point to economic growth, a senior executive at French construction company Bouygues said at the weekend.

The 1.5km bridge, linked to a new six-lane motorway, will be the first major infrastructure project completed in the city since the 2002 to 2004 civil war dragged the country into a decade of turmoil.

President Alassane Ouattara, who took office in 2011 after a short civil conflict triggered by his election win a year earlier, has focused on kick-starting growth in the top cocoa producer, pushing ahead with a number of ambitious infrastructure projects.

“The works are running on schedule,” said Charles Paradis, the chief executive of Bouygues Construction Concession, a subsidiary that manages infrastructure projects. “The timetable will be respected for it to open in December, specifically on December 22.”

With only two bridges crossing the Ébrié Lagoon around which Abidjan is built, traffic in the centre of the city is often gridlocked.

Paradis said the bridge would cut the time required to cross the lagoon, from the residential Riviera district to the commercial hub of Marcory near the port, from two hours to about three minutes, boosting economic activity by reducing time lost in traffic.

“This will bring economic benefits,” Paradis said. “It doesn’t seem absurd to me to say that we could gain one point of growth in gross domestic product.”

Ivory Coast’s roughly $40 billion (R433bn) economy makes up nearly half of the gross regional product of west Africa’s eight-nation CFA franc currency bloc.

Paradis said the toll for using the bridge was still being considered but could be between 700 and 1 000 CFA francs (R15.80 to R22.50).

The e270 million (R3.9bn) project was partly financed by the Africa Finance Corporation (AFC), a Nigeria-based fund which aims to finance infrastructure projects in Africa.

AFC chief executive Andrew Alli said the fund had around $1bn in capital on its balance sheet for financing new projects. He said the fund aimed to help the continent reduce an infrastructure financing deficit he estimated at $30bn a year. - Reuters