Sierra Leone seeks $2 Billion funding for Lungi airport bridge to Freetown

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 June 2019:

“We believe infrastructural investments should not burden the country with huge debt. They should be financed in a way that the public and future generations are not liable for that debt………So we are not going to build a bridge or an airport for which the people of Sierra Leone are going to pay back a high-interest loan for 10, 20, or 30 years. That simply does not make economic sense.”

Those are the words of a president who is in a hurry to uplift his people from poverty, through private sector led economic growth.

But achieving such an ambitious goal will not come cheap.

Sierra Leone desperately needs to up its game in attracting foreign direct investments in its fishery, agro-processing, tourism and farming industries.

However, the logistical nightmare of travelling from  Lungi Airport to the capital Freetown – a distance of about 10 nautical miles, is fraught with danger and risks.

Successive governments have toyed with the idea of constructing a bridge across the Lungi estuary to mainland Freetown, but lacked the courage, political will and conviction to proceed with the massive capital costs involved.

Today, president Julius Maada Bio has launched a tender process for the construction of an eight-kilometre long bridge, linking Lungi with mainland Freetown.

The bidding process will commence with an invitation to potential investors to express interest in investing in the project, which president Bio said “must be competitive, transparent, corruption-free, and must offer the best value for money”.

The president strongly warned against bribery, kickbacks, red tape, and other corrupt practices that have dogged previous infrastructural projects in the country.

The construction project is estimated to cost about $1.8 billion, and will be funded through public-private partnership involving the government.

In order to attract this level of investment through public-private partnership, the government must secure sovereign debt guarantee.

There are reports of expression of interests already received from several European and Chinese companies who are willing to undertake the project on a ‘build, own, operate, and transfer business model’. They will recover their investments by charging road users a toll fee.

Investors will also be looking to the government to offer generous tax waivers as government’s investment contribution to the project.

Construction of the bridge is projected to create over 5,000 jobs for unemployed Sierra Leoneans.

The bridge is expected to yield a projected economic return on investment of about $11 billion for the government, with a lifespan of 120 years. Construction is expected to take between four to six years.

The main economic benefit of this massive project – the largest single infrastructure development in the country since independence, is that Lungi could be developed to become a commercial hub and tourist centre, with an expanded airport that can accommodate increasing tourist numbers and greater airline traffic.

It could also see the construction of several commercial office space, hotels, expansion of entertainment and leisure businesses, light manufacturing premises, as well as office space for the relocation of public institutions and government departments, creating hundreds of thousands of job opportunities at Lungi and surrounding areas.

The Chairman of the Presidential Infrastructure Initiatives – Dr. John Edward Tambi (Photo – Tambi and president Koroma at the launch), said that for over 58 years since independence, Sierra Leoneans have endured the huge challenge of crossing over to Lungi from Freetown – a journey that has led to the death of hundreds if not thousands of people, businesses and local economies destroyed.

He said that successive governments have come and gone, with promises to construct a bridge crossing to Lungi but nothing happened.

“Today we all witness a great milestone under the leadership of President Julius Maada Bio. The New Direction Government has taken the bold and audacious task to build the bridge across Lungi. This is not a small project and we believe with God we can achieve it. I thank you all for your presence because it is a vote of confidence to the New Direction,” he said.

Delivering his keynote speech to launch the bidding process, this is what president Bio said:

“I am delighted to open this investor conference on infrastructure. It is one of our priority areas for investment leading to economic diversification.

So what I am going to do in this short statement is to start this conference off by saying how my government views infrastructural investments.

We believe infrastructural investments should not burden the country with huge debt. They should be financed in a way that the public and future generations are not liable for that debt.

So we are not going to build a bridge or an airport for which the people of Sierra Leone are going to pay back a high- interest loan for 10, 20, or 30 years. That simply does not make economic sense.

Each infrastructural investment must be able to pay for itself in 10 to 20 years depending on the financing model that is used. Each must also be worth the cost of constructing and maintaining it over its life span.

Therefore, each infrastructure investment should be affordable and must be funded without recourse to publicly guaranteed debts. We also believe that infrastructural investments must be purposeful. They must unlock tangible economic growth and improve the quality of life of the citizens.

In the construction and maintenance phases, there must be real job opportunities and skills training and transfer with implications for real incomes for local Sierra Leoneans. We will insist on that for every infrastructural investment.

We also believe that investors look at available infrastructure as a critical factor for making investment decisions and this consideration will drive each infrastructure investment decision we will make.

We also believe that infrastructure investments lead to new businesses and new businesses create more jobs, lead to new settlements or new population centres, create a need for new and more services, and increase overall economic productivity, That, can only be good for our economy.

We also believe that we should prioritise infrastructural investment decisions by asking critical questions about feasibility, sustainability, selectivity (Is this investment better and much needed now that the possible alternatives?); and whether it can lead to the development of other sectors of economy– tourism and travel, mining, construction, small-scale manufacturing etc.

As a Government, we are working to ease the investment landscape right across board and we maintain a long-term view of all investments including infrastructural investments. We desire that each investment yield long term benefits. We desire that each investment trigger off economic activity and growth over the long-term.

We also believe that the tender process must be competitive, transparent, corruption-free, and must offer the best value for money. We strongly discourage bribery, kickbacks, red tape, and other murky transactions and practices around infrastructural investments. This government and this country strongly discourages corruption.

So it is within this context that we are undertaking all infrastructural projects in this country. I have therefore directed the Office of Presidential Infrastructure Initiatives to be particularly attentive to all the foregoing critical elements in launching the tender process for the Lungi bridge.

I will closely superintend the entire process and ensure that every tender is compliant and every tender is in the best long-term interest of Sierra Leone and Sierra Leoneans. I thank you.” (END OF PRESIDENT’S SPEECH).

President Bio has raised the stakes. He has called the shots and now he must deliver. Whether foreign investors will find this proposal attractive enough to commit $1.8 billion, remains to be seen.

So far, there are strong indications that with Sierra Leone poised to strike commercially viable oil production, investors are seriously considering investing in Sierra Leone.

Investing in the construction of the only bridge linking the country’s international airport at Lungi to the mainland capital Freetown, must be at the top of their list.

You can listen to President Bio delivering his speech here:

16 Comments

  1. Lungi is not a major city. The airport is small and the use is below it’s capacity. The small pampam boats will compete with the toll for the bridge. I bet my folks from Koya will prefer a boat for their business than a toll road. Let us make it easy. Ask for investors to build the airport, which will cost less than the bridge and will provide more jobs and improve the outside of Freetown with modern facilities. I will be willing to invest $100,000 towards the airport.

  2. Just as indicated the last time: it sounds like the people of Sierra Leone are now witnessing the introduction of MAADANOMICS. Is the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) deficient of rational economists?

    Even an uneducated market woman could reason that she would rather utilize a loan of US$400 million (which is quite a substantial amount of money) than fantasize for a loan of US$2 billion – 5 times more than her immediate requirements. This is simple risk management and prudent economics.

    To be risk loving when you are spending other people’s money – especially dirt-poor people – is pure madness!

  3. If only some of you guys will be more attentive and see that Government stands to gain from this project; and inheriting it is one of many gains. Now, because the cost of the existing Toll Gates were never publicized, it’s easy to frown at the more transparent Lungi Bridge Project.

    If you think the bridge is such a waste, and that monies should have been spent on ‘bla bla bla’, what can you say of the over-priced Wilkinson Road, Hillside Bye-pass Road and many other APC Money-Making projects that suffocated the development of Sierra Leone’s economy.

    If you guys listened to BBC focus on Africa yesterday, you would have heard Potential Investors expressing interest not only for the project but the fair and open processes that have been put in place by this government.

    It is time to embrace change and be prepared for the unforeseen challenges, if any, that may befall the next generation. But personally, I see a President who is determined to make the needed change; and I think his dedicated team is working in that direction.

    God Bless Sierra Leone

    • Let’s be clear Mr. Sahr James Kamara, expressing interest does not mean a done deal. Listening to the BBC does not confirm any deal either. The truth is, this nonsense bridge is not worth it right now. Nobody is against the idea of building this bridge. People are just questioning the cost and the economic potential for our country.

      Don’t forget that the government is trying to peg the payment of the bridge with the discovery of OIL as in KUWAIT. Let me ask you this question Mr. Sahr James Kamara – Do you know if we have crude oil on our shores? If yes, do you know when it will be found?

      Mr. Sahr James Kamara there listening to the BBC for Lungi Bridge information. GOD BLESS YOU Mr. Sahr James Kamara.

  4. I am definitely in favour of the bridge construction. We have had too many misshaps with semi-working ferries which drift off course on numerous occasions, with scores of people onboard. But by the grace of God, no one has drowned and the ferry has not sunk. Why should we play russian roulette with our lives each time we want to travel from Lungi to Freetown and back?

    Further we are all tired of hearing that a minister was given money to go abroad and buy a ferry, and they come back with rusty barely working ferries.

    The sea coaches which ply the Lungi airport/Aberdeen route are expensive and can take only about 40 people at a time, whilst the luggage are put on another boat. You then collect your baggage when you get to either Lungi or Freetown.

    This is not a satifactory state of affairs by any stretch of the imagination. It must change. This bridge will sort a lot of these problems out and help with easy and safe transportation of people from Lungi to Freetown and back.

    It is going to be costly so we must brace ourselves for the cost. I wonder what the charge for the toll will be? I also wonder what the bridge will be called? If it will remain as Lungi Bridge, then that is an appropriate name which I am sure everyone will welcome.

    • Patricia, I agree with you in terms of the travel time and costs from Lungi to Freetown Vice versa. But that does not warrant wasting time and money on building such nonsense bridge at this time. Let me be clear.

      Building a bridge across the RIVER SELI estuary is not a problem whatsoever. As the name of the explains itself, it’s just a SELILIARTEER idea. I hope SELILIARTEER be added to the Oxford Dictionary.

      Patricia, I believe that the SLPP government would have just carry on with the building of the US$400 Million Dollar airport which should have answered your concerns. Let’s be honest here. The APC made the right judgment. DISCUSS/ARGUE! I’ll be right back.

      Thanks Patricia and GOD BLESS YOU.

  5. This dream project “lungi bridge” again. I believe this announcement from the president should turn away the other fundamental problems of the country, the situation inside Sierra Leone. Like Mr. Saidu Conteh wrote, there are other projects to develop which are more urgent for the people of Sierra Leone than to spend $2 billion. Before it was only $700 million? for this prestige project, which then will surpass the “maputo bridge” with only 3041 meter length as the longest bridge in Africa!
    so, may be it will be better to buy 2 or 3 new used ferries for an estimated $100 million.

  6. As a truly concerned and dedicated citizen of Sierra Leone,this is just the true reality of the “lack of foresights” our leaders have continuously manifested since Independence. Their beliefs that the Lungi Bridge must be the number one priority informs me of how deliberately they are inviting economic vultures to reap the “meat of a dead victim” (Sierra Leone).

    To say coming generation will not be liable to hunch a debt of such proportion is totally misleading, choking and outrageous…with the consequences of a total sofocation and severe laceration to the next generation. In such, there is complete preference shaping here full of hidden agendas that most of the public may not be aware of due to the invisible power of the elites who work to distort our perceptions.

    If Mr president would have the a courageous desire to make a bridge as part of his achievement as a president of the Republic, as a legacy hitherto, but I personally believe that he must focus his power in developing other key sectors like, Agriculture and fishing, education, local industry and housing and the re-urbanisation of especially our capital city and the provinces.

    Moreover, if our land is bestowed with all the natural resources for it’s subsistence, how can we be continuously allowing foreign powers to be dominant over our resources. To make the bridge, like many other infraestructuras badly needed by the nation,we must therefore in time train our own engineers and technocrats.

    In other words, put more emphasis on education. Given that the the resources are already there waiting to be used by it’s rightful owners. Our natural resources indeed is at a very big steak as always has been. Therefore, our generation must no longer sit and wait blindfully scoping our leaders that possess wisdomless vision for the future.

    I am seriously worried and afraid that our hands are going to be caught under the water….this so-called Bridge must not be the priority on the agenda list.

    • I totally agree with your last paragraph Lamin. This President and his SLPP GOVERNMENT have promised so many ambitious and costly projects since day one. But nothing has been accomplished, except for the FREE QUALITY EDUCATION which itself has eminent shortcomings. That we now know.

      We have been promised an ultra modern hospital, three star cancer center, Oxford type technical university in KONO, an Aluminum REFINERY and the list goes on and on. This government is now in its second year in office. They are now desperate to sell the country to foreigners at whatever cost. Should we say that it is all empty BLUFF? Very serious and interesting times indeed. I’ll be right back. GOD BLESS YOU LAMIN.

  7. Gentlemen, it seems to me the time has come for action – Yep. Push has finally come to Shove! Empty words and fruitless rhetoric will no longer suffice. The APC should no longer continue to remain passive and uninvolved,like a duck sitting on a lake in full view of a hunter’s rifle, waiting to be smashed by a merciless bullet.

    To my esteemed comrades and the Secretary General, here’s a piece of advice – please declare in writing for the purposes of transparency and clarification to our Citizens, government and investors; that if for any reasons whatsoever after the project commences, the Lungi bridge is not completed on time and Bio leaves office, the APC will not be compelled to fulfil any past obligations, but will prioritise it own objectives, aspirations and goals, whenever we assume power.

    Potential investors must be put on notice and made to assess the risks that are going to be involved. Let them be aware that Sovereign Guarantees could be annulled, declared invalid and cancelled on the grounds of minor technicalities, conflicts of interest and unanimous unfavorable opinions against the Project, no matter the stages it would’ve reached.

    It’s time to act before this nation is thrown mindlessly over a cliff. Consider this: for 50 million dollars we could get two brand new Commercial, freight size ferries and 4 Mega-sized slightly used one’s. Now that’s what responsible spending looks like by a Country strapped for cash. And another fifty million dollars can be used to rehabilitate all the roads that lead to Freetown from Lungi and its surrounding areas.

    There you go – that’s 100 million of sensible achievements and value for money being spent…1.8 Billion ‘Benjamin’s’ for an unnecessary bridge – Imagine that! Now take a deep breath and recognize that we are already in the deep waters of trouble. Rising Sun Will Rise Again.

  8. Indeed, one of the greatest disservice you can do to a nation,or any man is to lend them monies they cannot afford to pay back. Those are the regretful observations made by loan sharks after they stripped their debtors of all they owned for defaulting on their obligations,regarding the prompt repayment of loans.

    One Billion dollars for an unnecessary bridge, huh? This clearly shows that the SLPP government does not have the best interests of the common people at heart. All their endeavors,it seems,are nurtured,and hatched in the bosoms of self conceitedness,egotism,and Pride.

    One Billion dollars,is not easy to come by,and if you can find it,why waste it on a bridge when you can build affordable housing for the poor, struggling masses for half of that amount? Freetown is overcrowded with people not having a convenient place to lay their heads,and these ignoramuses are thinking of building a needless,unwarranted bridge?

    Its clear to me they are already thinking of their legacies,and leaving their footprints forever on the sands of time. They are thirsting, and anxious of becoming household names that will forever be etched in the history pages of our nation,irrespective of the fact that thousands go to bed every day,for many days on empty,and aching stomachs.

    You think that is bad? Well brace yourself because it is going to get worse. Sovereign Guarantees which this government must provide before any negotiations,and agreements,with potential investors can be finalised resemble handcuffs on a Man’s hands, shackles on his feet,and a noose around his neck – Yep,it signifies complete bondage. It is an assurance given to investors by government,that it will refrain from taking certain steps,and actions that could adversely affect the progress,and wellbeing of the project.

    They must also declare in writing that regardless of circumstances,all obligations will be met even if power changes hands,or if the Country defaults. Imagine that! Sovereign Guarantees are very complexed,and they mostly favor the investors; Once you are shackled with obligations,and commitments there’s no turning back – you are going to be dragged like a sheep to the slaughter house,kicking,and screaming.Sad isn’t it?

    And remember this also,whether you like it or not,your children,and grandchildren are going to become slaves to whoever it is that builds that Lungi to Freetown,8km bridge – Guaranteed! Listen,its irresponsible to keep on entangling a fragile, struggling nation in an endless cycle of debts.

    My advice to them is to exercise restraint and be patient. First, wait until you can find oil – Quit counting your chickens before that are hatched. What if they don’t hatch at all? Then what will you do, if suddenly,you find yourself stuck between a rock and a hard place because of your own poor sense of judgement? So the smart thing to do is to cut your Coat according to your Cloth,and keep on drilling until you are able to find oil,then blow the trumpets,and let the building begin.

    Why is our government deliberately jeopardizing the Cultural,and traditional independence of our nation because of ambition,and greed for money? Should their lack of good senseand ineptitude become the criteria that forces us to become strange bedfellows with the Chinese, Germans,and many others?

    One Billion dollars could be used to build quick yielding, sustainable industries, mechanized agricultural farms,and countless,thousands of acres of fruit orchards. It could help us become self sufficient,increase levels of export,and raise standards of living for ordinary Sierra Leoneans already living in abject poverty.

    But, priorities are not in order – they should be thinking of changing lives and helping men fulfill their destinies by giving the opportunities,instead of building expensive, bridges that are bound to make Investors mind boggling rich,at the expense of the of the street vendors,poor fishermen,hardworking farmers,shoemakers,tailors,and fruit sellers. Rising Sun Will Rise Again.

    • If you actually mean good for this nation,there is no need to make meaningless comments. The moment we love ourselves as sierra leonean,the greater the possibility of development. Stop thinking bad for others always.

  9. A very ambitious project that would radically transform Sierra Leone’s economy. When completed, the Lungi bridge will become Africa’s third longest road bridge. Bravo to the New Direction Government.

    • Levi, will you please explain how this bridge will transform our economy? Secondly, it seems to me that, you are admiring this bridge because, it will become Africa’s third longest road bridge. Just admiring a bridge is an empty and dangerous support. DISCUSS. Levi there admiring this nonsense Lungi Bridge project. It’s a shame. GOD BLESS YOU Levi for your contribution.

  10. Look at that. A government that blocked the construction of a new 400 Million Dollars airport, is now talking about wasting the present and future generations money and time for the construction of a US1.8 Billion dollars dead on arrival Lungi bridge project.

    Just construct a new airport as the APC suggested. Lungi Airport will remain for future local flights or for the military (strategic military base). Does the SLPP GOVERNMENT thinks that Sierra Leoneans are fools? Why fool the people? SAD.

    They accused the APC for negotiating a bogus airport deal and now, they want to negotiate a BOGUS +++++ nonsense Lungi Bridge. No country is going to provide such funds except the Chinese because, they can give a blank check to do anything and then come later to claim it if you default.

    I hear them say 20 to 30 years. Lies have already begun. Such debts with such a poor country like Sierra Leone will take a minimum of 200 years to PAY. DISCUSS/ ARGUE. Just more ammunition has been given for 2023 defeat. I will visit this article later.

    • If I may ask,what have you done as individual to boost the economy of this nation? You’re always sure of loving God but hate to see your neighbour. What love then do you have for this nation?

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