AfDB approves €137 million to finance Tunisia-Libya Highway

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The Board of Directors of the African Development Bank (AfDB) on 21 June 2011 approved a loan of €137.34 million  to fund the motorway link between Gabes,  Medenine, and Ras Jedir in Tunis. The loan granted to the Tunisia Highways Corporation, and guaranteed by the government, will be used to fund the Medenine to Ras Jedir part of the link.

Overall, the project involves building 195 km of twin lane road between Gabes and Ras Jedir at the Tunisian-Libyan border.  AfDB is co-funding the link with partners, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which is lending €136.47 million, and the Tunisian government / Tunisia Highways Corporation, which is supplying €180.97 million.

This project, part of Tunisia’s 11th Social and Economic Development Plan, is  need because  road traffic projections show that by 2015, the expected commissioning year for the highway , that several sections of the national highway RN1, the main route currently used by drivers from Gabes to Ras Jedir will be saturated.

The south-east of Tunisia, which will directly benefit from the project, has the highest rates of poverty and unemployment in the country. The project will create about 2,000 jobs directly during construction, and 160 once in operation. In addition, a large number of indirect jobs will be generated by this project. In the medium term, estimations are that 30,000 jobs could be created as a result of the motorway link, principally in the tourism and services sectors. This will contribute to the Tunisian Government’s priority programme , put in place in the wake of the January revolution, and which aims among other objectives to reduce regional disparities by opening up rural areas that have not so benefitted from road sector investment.

This project should improve the overall functioning and efficiency of the transport system in aiding the growth of Tunisia’s national and international trade.  The CEO of the Tunisian Highways Corporation, Mr. Jamel Zrig, said: "Its implementation will facilitate the movement of goods and people between Gabes and the Tunisian-Libyan border and provide better north-south-east access. In addition, it will perform an essential link within Tunisia in the Trans-Maghreb Highway and thus contribute to regional economic integration for the Arab Maghreb Union countries. "

The sections of this highway also constitute major links in corridor No. 1 of the trans-African highway network whose ultimate objective is to link Dakar to Cairo.

"Participation in this project is a recognition that the Bank will continue to support Tunisia in the expansion and modernization of its transport system," said Gilbert Mbesherubusa, director of transportation infrastructure at the AfDB.

It is also a contribution to the implementation of Tunisia’s priority programme to deal with the current socio-economic problems, in addition to other AfDB operations currently under preparation.  The AfDB announced budget support of USD 500 million to Tunisia in May 2011.