Africa

From railways to ports, these infrastructure megaprojects are reshaping Africa

By Rebecca Cairns, CNN

Updated 1219 GMT (2019 HKT) January 15, 2021
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Across the African continent, innovative transport systems and smart cities are being developed to boost economies and increase trade opportunities.

While Nigeria is one of Africa's most oil-rich countries, its refineries are only operating at a small fraction of their capacity. It's not just bad for the economy — fuel shortages mean Nigeria suffers frequent power cuts. But Africa's richest man, Aliko Dangote, is building an oil refinery he says will solve Nigeria's fuel problem. Covering 2,635 hectares, the new Dangote Petroleum Refinery will be the largest in Africa, with capacity to process 650,000 barrels a day. Dangote hopes to create a market for Nigerian crude oil worth $11 billion annually. The refinery is expected to open this year.
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Projects like Lekki Deep Sea Port in Lagos aim to reposition African cities as internationally competitive business centers.

The multipurpose port — which will be the deepest in sub-Saharan Africa — is intended to increase Nigeria's commercial operations across West Africa and its global trading potential. It is designed to handle four million metric tons of dry goods a year. The Chinese Development Bank has loaned $629 million to the project and China Harbour Engineering Company is providing $221 million in equity funding for the port, which is expected to generate revenue of $361 billion and create up to 170,000 new jobs. The port is due to be completed by 2022: work on the breakwater phase is underway.
Lekki Port
Just 28 miles (45 kilometers) east of Cairo, Egypt is constructing a New Administrative Capital. The $58 billion project, started in 2015, is designed to be a hub for government and the finance industry. Egypt hopes to entice some of the 20 million residents of its current capital, Cairo, to relocate to the new city, where there is space for 6.5 million people.

The city will feature numerous skyscrapers, including Africa's soon-to-be tallest building, the Iconic Tower. Recently, a $4 billion, 100-kilometer monorail project, connecting Cairo and the new city, was announced. The Egyptian government says it will trial operations in the city in the first half of 2021.
Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images
The ambitious Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is one of Africa's biggest infrastructure projects. Built on the Blue Nile River near Ethiopia's border with Sudan, the $5 billion dam will generate 6,000 megawatts of electricity annually. The project aims to turn Ethiopia into Africa's biggest hydroelectric exporter.

But the dam has been controversial from the get-go. The Blue Nile is one of two sources for the River Nile, providing 85% of the water that flows north through Sudan and Egypt, to the Mediterranean. Colonial-era agreements mean Egypt and Sudan, which rely on the river for their water supply, have maintained control over the river in the past -- but Ethiopia's dam threatens this. Negotiations between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt are ongoing, but an agreement is yet to be reached.
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Designed to connect Kenya's main cities, and eventually neighboring nations, the Kenya Standard Gauge Railway is the largest infrastructure project undertaken by Kenya since it gained independence in 1963.

Construction of the first 300-mile (482 kilometer) section between the coastal city of Mombasa and Kenya's capital, Nairobi, was completed in 2017. Traveling at an average speed of 74 miles (120 kilometers) per hour, the train journey between the two cities now takes just four hours instead of 12. The $3.8 billion project was built by Chinese construction company China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC), and 90% funded by China Exim Bank.
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Phase two of the Standard Gauge Railway project, connecting Nairobi and Naivasha, a town popular with tourists for its proximity to Hell's Gate National Park and Mount Longonot National Park, was opened to passengers in 2019. The $1.5 billion project was also built by CRBC and financed by Exim Bank. Extensions to the current line are still under consideration for the coming years, with proposals for lines connecting with Ethiopia, Uganda and South Sudan, as well as further lines within Kenya. Patrick Meinhardt/AFP/Getty Images
Another ambitious railway project, the Lagos-Kano Standard Gauge Railway, in Nigeria, will span 1,678 miles (2,700 kilometers) from the port city of Lagos, to the northern city of Kano, near the border with Niger. Intended to boost the economy, the railway will carry both passengers and freight. Built by China Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC) and partially funded by Exim Bank, the project is being completed in multiple stages: the first section between Abuja and Kaduna was completed in 2016, while the second Lagos to Ibadan section began trials in December 2020. Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/Getty Images
As Namibia's largest commercial port, Walvis Bay processes five million tons of cargo every year. A $300 million, five-year project has seen the port more than double its capacity for container units and reduce waiting times for ships. Its new container terminal, built on 40 hectares of reclaimed land, was announced to be fully operational in September 2020. From Namport
Egypt's Suez Canal underwent an $8 billion expansion in 2015 to increase trading potential, and it has paid off, with a 4.7% rise in revenue. However, further expansion might be on the cards: in September 2020, Hala el Said, Minister of Planning and Economic Development, said that $1.1 billion has been allocated to upgrades on the Suez Canal project in 2021. As one of the country's major sources of income, increasing the capacity of the canal will be vital for economic growth in the coming decade. Proposals include four tunnels beneath the canal, and equipment upgrades. Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images