The African Development Bank and Africa50 signed an agreement with the DRC and the Republic of Congo to finance the first road-rail bridge project. Photo: Supplied

JOHANNESBURG – The African Development Bank (AfDB) and Africa50 on Thursday signed an agreement with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Republic of Congo to develop and finance the first road-rail bridge project linking their capitals – Kinshasa and Brazzaville.

This landmark project consists of a 1 575km toll bridge over the Congo River. It will include a single railway track, a double-lane road, sidewalks, and a single border checkpoint at each end, connecting to existing road infrastructure in both countries. 

The cost estimate in 2017 was $550 million (R7.7 billion).

The two governments have mandated Africa50 – an infrastructure investment platform investing in bankable projects – and the AfDB to develop the project as a public/private partnership, while the bank will act as the debt provider under the aegis of the Economic Community of Central African States. 

As the main developer, Africa50 will lead the project development, help select a strategic partner, and provide equity for construction. The deal was signed on the sidelines of the Africa Investment Forum in Johannesburg. 

Jean-Jacques Bouya, minister of large construction works of the Republic of Congo, said the positive socio-economic impacts from this project will be significant, stimulating trade and economic growth and creating jobs in the Republic of Congo and beyond.

"Upgrading the infrastructure of the Republic of Congo is one of our foremost priorities, in particularly transport, which can help us diversify our economy through increased trade and investment," Bouya said.

Modeste Bahati Lukwebo, senior minister of planning in DRC, said the construction of this bridge will not only link to the cities, but will speed up regional integration beyond their borders. 

The bridge is expected to improve transport networks between Kinshasa and Brazzaville. The two closest capitals in the world are only linked by ferries.

Once the bridge is built, the existing traffic of an estimated 750 000 people and 340 000 tons of freight a year, is expected to increase to more than 3 million people and 2 million tons of freight by 2025.

The governments of the two countries have long been working on this crucial infrastructure project, signing initial protocols in 2007, and cooperating on and co-funding the feasibility study with the African Development Bank.

Akinwumi Adesina, president of AfDB, said: "The idea to connect the two capitals dates back to the mid-19th century. This project is just the beginning, more will follow".

African News Agency (ANA)