Sierra Leone Telegraph: 6 December 2023:
The government of Sierra Leone has signed a memorandum of understanding with China Road and Bridge Corporation and the Atepa Group’s architectural firm, for the construction of a 5 miles long bridge across Freetown to Lungi, at an estimated cost of $1.5 billion, government officials said last Friday.
But serious concerns are being raised about the legality of the memorandum, which critics say has not been discussed and approved by parliament, nor has the government published the content of the agreement.
This announcement comes in the face of growing anxiety in the country over rising costs of living, growing poverty, lack of safe clean drinking water, and poor access to reliable electricity, which many in Sierra Leone say must be a priority for the government, rather than a $1.5 billion Chinese bridge.
The announcement has also provoked accusations from critics who say that the government is exploiting current political instability caused by its fight with the main opposition APC, to bring in initiatives and policies through the backdoor without public and parliamentary scrutiny and accountability.
A sustainable alternative the government is refusing to consider at a much lower cost, is the construction of a highway from Lungi, Port Loko to Freetown which could generate greater level of local economic development than a bridge across to Lungi.
The government says that feasibility study for the bridge is expected to be completed in the next few months and construction to commence next year, for completion in 2027 by the China Road and Bridge Corporation and the Atépa Group.
The Chinese company China Road and Bridge Corporation is among the largest engineering and construction firms globally and operates in more than 50 countries across Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas. It is a member of the Fortune 500, ranking 61st.
The Atépa Group, including the architectural firm, has several globally renowned projects to its credit, including the Banjul Airport (Gambia), the headquarters of BCEAO in Dakar (Senegal), the ECOWAS Fund headquarters in Lomé (Togo), and the Monument of the Renaissance, also in Dakar. It has offices in several countries in Africa and Asia.