(Reuters) – Niger and Benin signed a deal on Tuesday to finalise the terms of the construction and operation of a railway linking Niamey with the port of Cotonou, expected to be finished in the middle of next year.
French firm Bollore will cover the entire 1.07 billion euro cost of building the rail link, according to the terms of the deal.
“We have created the conditions to guarantee the harmonious, diligent and efficient operation of this ambitious and historic project,” said Niger’s Planning Minister Amadou Boubacar Cisse.
Bollore will own a 40 percent stake in the operator BENI rail, in which the two countries will each own 10 percent. The remaining stake will be owned by private investors from Niger and Benin.
“This contract is a strong guarantee that the railway will be completed and a guarantee of the finance that we are bringing,” Bollore group president Vincent Bolloré told state television in Niger.
Work began in April 2014 on a 574 km railway to join Niamey to the eastern Benin town of Parakou, which has an existing rail link to Cotonou.
The line is expected to carry mostly freight, with passengers accounting for only a fifth of its activity.
At the inauguration of a commercial zone at the railway station in Niamey on Tuesday, President Mahamadou Issoufou said the company could be awarded a concession in the coming weeks to build a rail link from Niger to the capital of neighbouring Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou.
The link would form part of a planned 2,800 km network joining up Ivory Coast, Benin, Burkina Faso, and Niger.
($1 = 606.4700 CFA francs)