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Barely six years after Nigeria and Cameroon signed a Memorandum of Understanding that was to put their socio-political differences behind them, the Enugu-Bamenda Road Project linking the two countries is already showing signs of a positive impact in the region. In fact, the African Development Bank-financed project is a genuine success story, paving the way for regional integration and greater social cohesion.
The project has a considerable socio-economic dimension, and is environmentally sustainable. Its total cost at appraisal is USD 423 million, of which the Bank provided a USD 288 million loan and a grant of USD 25 million. The balance was financed by the World Bank, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Government of Nigeria, Government of Cameroon and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
The Enugu-Bamenda Highway is part of Trans-African Highway, which was conceived over 30 years ago as a transcontinental link from Lagos to Mombasa. Today, the highway stretches 6,300 km, traversing Nigeria, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Kenya. The Trans-African Highway Authority that was established in the 1980s by the six member states could not achieve its mandate to fully develop the highway due to lack of adequate resources and political will. Cameroon and Nigeria signed an MoU on March 29, 2007 and sought funding from the AfDB and other development partners to execute the much-needed transport corridor.
The Enugu-Bamenda Highway project has been transformational in terms of the direct benefits felt by the population within the project area, including a boost to household income levels. Concretely, the project has contributed to job creation and private sector expansion by facilitating the marketing of agricultural produce in the zone with improved access via the highway and rural feeder roads. Video testimonies from beneficiaries confirm the highway project has improved social and rural infrastructure, including access to schools, markets, drying beds for agricultural produce, cassava and oil processing mills.
Years ago, the road was a nightmare to the population in the area. The former Enugu-Bamenda Road was described by locals as “the worst road in the world”. During the rainy season, trucks were stranded in the mud and women were refused rides because they were not seen to be strong enough to push the vehicles should they become stuck.
With the road improvements, transport costs and poverty levels along this economic corridor have already been reduced dramatically. The project has a tremendous potential for economic transformation by improving the efficiency of the transport and living conditions of the population within its zone of influence. It is common knowledge that Nigeria is the largest trading partner of Cameroon even with the prevalence of bad roads linking the two countries.
The Bank’s success story is not only on the Nigeria-Cameroon highway, but also in many other countries on the continent. Between 2009 and 2012, it rehabilitated more than 12,000 km of main roads and 15,000 km of feeder roads, providing more than 12 million people with improved access to transport in the continent. Also, during the period under review, more than 500 km of cross-border roads and 800 km of cross-border transmission lines were constructed and rehabilitated.