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. Emmanuel…the question was not for you but for Peter Tucker. But thanks anyway, for letting me know how you feel and what you think about me. Are you PETER TUCKER? Why would you use a double identity on this platform? And by the way, your answer is wrong, It is not that simple – Think, carefully, cautiously and get back to me.

    • Let me first of all start by informing Mr. Andrew Kaikai that the bridging of Tagrin Bay and Freetown was one of the planned development projects of the APC. So, it’s not something new. Other follow up development projects were the construction of a new State House, Parliament Building, Ministerial buildings, etc.

      These follow up development projects would have been carried out after the construction of the Mamamah Airport and the Sea Port at Sulima. So, it was just a SPY JACKSON by the SLPP to build this nonsense bridge. In terms of project priorities, the APC made the right judgement in my view.

      Why did the SLPP government not just continue with this viable economic project which has already started. By cancelling this project that was already started, was just insane to waste tax payers money because of politics. Do you agree with me Mr. Andrew Kaikai? Please, let’s always put Sierra Leone first instead of greedy politics.

      Don’t forget also Andrew that the present lungi Airport was a former British Air Force Base. Why not build the new Airport at Mamamah and lease Lungi International Airport to the British which they would definitely welcome. By doing so, the government will get a lot of money from the British and also the British government will undertake a lot of development projects in the area.

      Now, with your question concerning the 35000 jobs, will demand more writing space. So, I will be very brief and do my best to satisfy you.

      1. The airport will become a sub-regional hub which will at least provide a minimum of 6000 jobs.
      2. The tourism industry will get a very big boost which will provide another 16000 jobs.
      3. Increase in passenger Capacity growth from the US, CANADA, SOUTH AMERICA, NEW ZEALAND and AUSTRALIA wil create another 5000 jobs.
      4. Increase in CARGO volumes will yield an additional 5000 jobs.
      5. New operators including traveling agencies and other miscellaneous establishment such as security agencies will create more than 3000 jobs.

      These estimates were just for a start. Job creation would just go uncontrollable after a year according to some analysts. Will that be a good thing for the country Mr. Andrew Kaikai?

      Why should the SLPP abandon these immense benefits to the country and job creation for politics. DISCUSS/ARGUE. Whether you like the APC or not, the Mamamah Airport was just the right project ever and continuity must have been carried out by the SLPP. PERIOD!
      I hope to have answered your concerns Mr. Andrew Kaikai. GOD BLESS YOU.

  2. Sahr Matturi, your distortion of the direction of the current government is plain wrong. Have you asked why the new airport construction was abandoned for a bridge across the peninsula? Find out the economic benefits to the region by maintaining the Lungi airport and building the bridge.

    To releive the pressure off the overpopulated Freetown, maybe, the government’s answer is to build the bridge, to expand the Lungi airport and to bring light industries to areas surrounding the airport. Lungi with its vast, virgin land will become the crown jewel for development that will connect the hinterland to the Western area. Freetown is and will always be an unhealthy city no matter how often it is cleaned!

    With factories, businesses and hotels filling Lungi and its surrounding landscape, the population will begin to shift away from Freetown. Freetown is old and archaic. Downtown is a slum compared to other African cities. Why would you prefer an airport in this mix of colossal devastation?

    Your other assertion that the free education initiative is faulty. If it is faulty, do you have a better idea? Money is not the issue sir, it is the mismanagement of our resources that is the issue. For too long successive governments since Independence, excluding the Tejan Kabba administration, have demonstrated colossal lack of integrity to properly manage the people’s treasury. The treasury was their private bank account.

    Infrastructural contracts were awarded to family members and APC party stewards with no accountability to any one. State assets were sold to their families and friends at a fraction of the actual cost.

    What about the Ebola and Mudslide funds? Whatever happened to the thousands of stolen vehicles? During the last administration, the ACC was a toothless and sleeping giant. Where did hundreds of APC leaders and henchmen get all the wealth from? Sir, until you address these issues, I don’t think you have the moral authority and fabric to comment on issues related to the current government.

    President Bio has a plan to simultaneously improve all sectors of the country. These are bold steps that must be taken to propel the country into the 21st century. The president needs all of our collective help to make these work. Our people have suffered far too long. Now is not the time for academic and political rhetoric.

    We also need a viable and constructive opposition party that will limit government’s overreach. For those of us who may have benefitted from the the country’s education system, it is incumbent upon us to avail ourselves to help the children achieve their academic aspirations. PLEASE PUT GOD FIRST, THEN COUNTRY, FAMILY AND PARTY LAST. GOD BLESS MAMA SALONE.

    • Thank you very much Mr. Andrew Kaikai for your proposals about building a bridge across the SELI river to ease the overpopulation of Freetown. The best way to ease the overpopulation of Freetown is to make MAKENI the new POLITICAL CAPITAL of Sierra Leone. Whether one likes it or not, Makeni is the right area for a new CAPITAL. DISCUSS.

      This nonsense bridge Andrew is not going to solve the overpopulation. It is going to make it worse in my view. By making Makeni the political capital of Sierra Leone and Freetown remains the economic capital, Sierra Leone will be on the right track in terms of the economy and progress. People will be forced to leave Freetown for the provinces and the rural areas. The ripple effect of that will help surrounding towns and districts to develop. I will not get in the economics of that right now.

      Mr. Andrew Kaikai there proposing how to solve the overpopulation of Freetown. Thanks Andrew and GOD BLESS YOU.

  3. Mr Tucker, I just stumbled upon your comment a few moments ago – and I am not quite sure you merit or deserve the effort of a prudent response. So with all due respect, allow me to first quickly and simply evaluate and assess your capabilities and level of intelligence, and then we can proceed from there. Clear enough? This is the point where you’re supposed to say – “Crystal”.

    Here’s a question, a riddle, a situation puzzle for you to ponder upon, scrutinize and solve. Ready? A man went into a restaurant and order half of a chicken. The waiter repeats the order and it is settled that the customer only wants just half of a full chicken. So the waiter goes and returns with a whole chicken, and said to the customer – “Sir, is this what you ordered?” And the man replied – “Yes of course, its just perfect”.

    My question to you and any others who think they are intelligent enough to answer is this: The Customer specifically said he wanted just a half of a chicken, not a full one – Clear! But when a whole chicken was brought to him he confirmed the order was correct and happily accepted it. Why is that so?

    And Mr Tucker, if you answer my question you will be rewarded with a logical response. If you cannot, then not a word will you hear from me again. And if you say you don’t know the answer then also, the matter is settled. Rising Sun Will Rise Again.

    • Good day Saidu. It is rather unfortunate that with all the respect given to you, you are always in the habit of showing Mr Know all and try to insult others intelligently and I can likewise do the same as you do, but due to our individual respects. You think you are intelligent but not. You are a poet with no objectivity in your comments,s period. To answer your question is very simple and clear from the side of the customer, he is not objective and lack the foresight for what he actually wants. Period.

  4. I personally would like to thank President Bio for Thinking Big . I am also grateful to him for not abandoning the people and the city of Lungi that has been blessed with the Airport since time in memorial and I believe that all the investment together with the hopes and dreams they have at the moment, would have been shattered if the Airport had been relocated.
    Building Lungi Bridge has always been a dream and I personally believe that even our colonial masters were planning to do it before we asked for our independence.

    One thing I cherish in life is the ability to have CHOICES, and I personally believe that with the completion of the Lungi Bridge, I will have the option to choose to travel to Lungi Airport in the Northern province by driving through a toll road for about 3 miles, which at 50-60 mph will take me less than 10 minutes, or, travel by the ferry which usually takes about 45 minutes to an hour depending on the tide. I can travel through the Masiaka toll road which usually takes 2 hours. With more options available for the citizens of our nation, there will always be competition amongst our investors to give good service at a reasonable price which will help improve the lives of our people.

    What are the options that will be available to the investors of the Lungi Bridge if their price are not competitive with the rest? Are they going to fold up the Bridge and leave? So instead of putting up with Mediocrity and Negativity we have to start thinking Positively and Big if we want to be removed from the class of the least developed country on the planet earth.

    I believe that with the launch of the Free Quality Education and this Infrastructural Development Plan, there will be both Human Capital Development simultaneously with infrastructural development.

    We have always been blessed with natural resources and with the eradication of corruption, I hope that the Almighty will give our leadership the wisdom and understanding to transform our nation by using our resources to bless our people.

  5. In my view, the Government’s PR needs to talk more on the $2billion plan for the Lungi Bridge. From almost all the contributions, it appears plenty people think the entire money will be spent on just the bridge, whilst this is not so. I have read in addition to what I have heard, that the $2b includes expansion of the airport to cater for 3 million passengers (whilst the current does for 200,000 people), build a coastal line, five-star hotels, tourist attractions etc.

    Another concern from plenty contribution is that the government should invest such amount into energy. I think there will be duplication of funds considering the ongoing work in the energy and other sectors like Agriculture etc. Already, there is progress on the WAPP (West African Power Pool) project.

    Just a few days ago, the World Bank approved an additional $50m for the energy sector. We have had the plans for Tormabom project. Government has pledged $500m for that project, promising that its harvest can feed and export the surplus. So, the plan looks holistic in all major areas. Great for folks to grab a copy of the National Strategic Plan recently launched.

  6. The Sierra Leone Telegraph has definitely become our second parliament, and for that we owe the medium a huge debt of gratitude.

    It is quite understandable why most Sierra Leoneans have become extremely nervous, skeptical and critical of anything that only has to smell like a massive loan without bothering to examine the details closely before passing judgement.

    Our leaders in all sectors are responsible for this frame of mind. Over the years they have informed us of huge loans and grants arriving from the international community for a particular purpose without seeing that purpose bear fruits. The loans and grants quite simply disappear between State House and the Treasury with no accountability. Discovered massive diamonds also meet the same fate.

    But let us take a deep breath, stand back and take an objective view of what the Bio government is doing here.To start with, the two billion dollars being bandied around is nothing but an estimate – no one knows what the final figure will be.

    This is where the cleverness of Maada Bio shines through. He is calling for bidders from around the world. No bidder will know what the other bidder is proposing; this only generates the need to tender bids that are economical and efficient to beat the competition.Previously the entire project would end up with the Chinese without a single bid from anywhere because our politicians were in their pockets. Does this explain why they could afford to give us shoddy products and continue their dominance in our country?

    My wish is that a European firm will win the bid to construct the bridge, for they are more likely to use local labour significantly as opposed to the Chinese who tend to bring in all resources from their country and leave us stuck where they found us.

    This brings me to some of the benefits of a successful construction of the bridge. Providing jobs has already been alluded to. This alone should ease the unemployment rate which is responsible for some of our social problems. Gainfully employed people will spend and in turn create jobs in other sectors.

    Secondly the contractor will be bringing in his own money which will find its way into the banking sector as a result of which, more credit will be created as banks are in a position to lend to businesses and individuals with good credit standing, who want to start something new in the country.

    Thirdly, after the contractor has broken even he will start paying tax to boost government coffers; this is in addition to the personal income tax which his employees will be paying. The government can then afford to embark on programs for the benefit of the country.

    Never again will we go adrift on a dysfunctional ferry which a minister has been sent to buy but pocketed a good chunk of the money.

    President Bio is following the Singapore model which enable it to jump from being a developing nation to a developed one within the life time of the man [Lee Kuan YU], who led it to independence in the same year as we went independent. As a matter of fact I don’t think we ever regained our independence. The most shocking thing is that Singapore has no natural resources as we do.

    Stick to your guns President Bio. Do not allow anything or any one to brow beat you. Once you start attracting foreign capital in this manner, others will follow. I especially want you to diversify the foreign investment sector. It thrills me to know that you have put yourself at the centre of the Lungi project as supervisor.

  7. My brother Sahr Matturi, you have asked me to explain how the Lungi bridge will transform our economy and I will gladly do so. Before saying a word, I would like you to join me in saying thanks to His excellency president Julius Maada Bio for his determination to transform our country from one of a battered and ruined society under Ernest Bai Koroma and the APC, into a modern society that would not only be productive domestically but also competitive internationally.

    Patricia has gone over the calamitous and dangerous conditions under which Sierra Leoneans are subjected any time they want to travel from Freetown to Lungi and vice versa. So, I am not going to rehash that. But it is important to note that the bridge will facilitate travel between Freetown and Lungi. Whereas it takes the ferries and boats about forty-five minutes, the trip between Freetown and Lungi will in future be lessened to about fifteen minutes with the bridge.

    The bridge will also facilitate and increase commercial activities between Freetown and Lungi. The increased commercial activities will mean more taxes for the government and more cash flows between Lungi and Freetown.

    Additionally, with the bridge, more visitors will arrive in Sierra Leone, which would mean an increase in air traffic for the country. With more visitors, Sierra Leone’s hospitality industry will receive a boom as hotels and restaurants will spring up to serve a burgeoning tourist industry. Consequently, jobs would be created to absorb the rising unemployed youths. These youths will spend their incomes and with the increase in consumer spending, di gron will no longer be dry.

    Realize also that the bridge construction is going to create at least 5,000 jobs. With this transformation occurring without subjecting the country to a ballooning debt, I see no reason why the bridge will not be great for Sierra Leone. Now, join me in naming the bridge: “The Julius Maada Bio bridge”.

    • Thank you very much Levi for your explanations. I appreciate it very much. By asking you a simple question on the economic achievements from this bridge, you have given me additional information which I appreciate. By the way, I am not against the idea for constructing this bridge.

      The problem I have is the cost and the basic needs such as clean drinking water, good housing, good sanitation to name a few that our country dearly needs and this government is not trying to fully address. This bridge is not a priority as far as I am concerned.

      They claimed that the bridge will create 5000 jobs. But they forgot that the Airport the APC proposed if completed would have created 35000 jobs. Seven times that number. Why not support a project that provides more jobs for the people, even if it is an idea from your opponent. SAD.

      To be honest, it was all a politics of distraction after the most popular politician in the country and potentially next president of Sierra Leone Chief Sam Sumana was teargased without reason on the streets of Port Loko. However, the government which is in dear need of cash, will get some income from the bidding process. That is good news for the SLPP government. Bidding is also good business. Thanks Levi for your formidable response and may GOD BLESS YOU.

  8. Good day brother. I have a simple question for you, what’s the essence of a second airport when the present one is not performing to it’s capacity despite world bank renovations. Lastly, how many passengers our present airport receives a year before thinking of constructing another? We are among the least visited location in the world, and yet you are advocating for a new airport? Just pathetic for Intel like you bro.

    • You made a very good point Emmanuel by asking me how many passengers pass through this airport per year. The simple answer is very few. Below any reasonable tourist number. Because of the extremely low number of passengers passing through this airport per year, disqualifies the construction of this bridge right now. The SLPP government should have considered this simple question you’ve asked me before even considering this nonsense bridge construction.

      The reason I supported the construction of the Airport proposed by the APC is because of the cost and the number of jobs created compared to the cost of this nonsense bridge and the number of jobs created if this nonsense bridge God forbid is constructed. Don’t forget that they also decided to do some extension on the Airport. GOD alone knows why the extension.
      Thanks very much Emmanuel for your questions. I hope to have satisfied you. GOD BLESS YOU.

  9. This is interesting, and as a civil engineer – infrastructure is welcomed. Alas, others may almost want to predict my opinion now, please be patient. I have read other’s valuable points (should I say frustration) above; and I would like to say it is not a bad idea. However, the timing is where the problem is.

    The old cliche, ‘we are building for our future generation’ has been tried, tested and proven wrong. As a nation, we should wisely ‘lay the foundation’ (make provision) and let future generation build as they chooses.

    There are several ‘white elephant’ (big, fancy but out of proportion in value or use) projects I have been involved in around the world (at construction stages of course :-), and this one has all the attributes of such projects. Its almost guaranteed if funded by the Chinese, because they are notorious for ‘white elephant’ projects. And it will be a miracle to have a non-Chinese investor for such proposal.

    Will this be our own ‘Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau’ bridge, grandiose but useless or for a better word pretentious, or is it a badly needed relief?

    SL needs somewhere to sleep tonight, yes, but SL is so hungry it may not make it tonight without food. Feed SL (figuratively speaking) and then provide it with shelter, even better, it will build its own shelter.

    You all know where I am going with this, a good idea but wrong timing, but time is never a politician’s friend.

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