Approaching the Finish Line

The Chinese initiative to build West Africa’s longest bridge in Foundiougne has reached the last stretch.

A business group, EIG, made up of Chinese firms, is in charge of building what will eventually be Senegal’s and West Africa’s longest bridge.

The road going to Foundiougne is being extended. With their machinery, technicians are digging and filling up both sides of the road. This is a sign of the region’s economic importance, as it already has a port and is constructing a huge hydrocarbon storage facility, as well as the country’s planned longest bridge.

The Senegalese Government has prioritized the development of bridges and roads to allow the free movement of people and commodities as part of its goal to make Senegal a developing country by 2035. The government has launched the construction of the Foundiougne bridge under this framework with China’s help. The bridge, which has been dubbed as the country’s and West Africa’s longest, is erected on the Saloum River near Foundiougne. The ancient ferry, “Les îles du Gandoul,” named after the delta’s upstream islands, performs around 10 crossings daily to connect the river’s two banks. This ancient mode of transportation feels interminable, especially for the workers who depend on it to go to their workplaces.

Cheikh Diouf works for a Senegalese detergent manufacturer near Fatick as a delivery driver. He travels between his hometown and Foundiougne at least three times a week, and has done so for the past 10 years. The journey takes around 15 minutes, and the cost varies according to the vehicle that is being carried. When it comes to crossing, pedestrians have more luck than drivers. If the ferry is unavailable, they can use pirogues. Diouf has high hopes from the bridge’s construction and commissioning, and he does not mind that it will be a toll bridge because the time saved is invaluable to him.

The Senegal’s Foundiougne Bridge was successfully closed on June 6, 2021. (Photo/China Railway Group Limited)

Commissioning planned for 2022

The Chinese joint venture CGWIC/HENAN CHINA, made up of China Great Wall Industry Corporation and China Henan International Corporation Group Co., is in charge of the building of the Foundiougne Bridge. On June 6, the firm completed the structural work by laying all of the spans. Chen Xuren, an engineer and project manager, is relieved. “Since COVID-19 outbreak, work has stalled because many engineers were having trouble returning to Senegal after a few weeks in China. With the pouring of 31 columns, two supports on each side, and 128 spans, we completed the most difficult portion of the job.” The concrete and asphalt pavement, access roads, the roundabout, and other auxiliary works are nearing completion.

According to him, the project entails the construction of a 1,290.2-meter bridge, a 50-meter access road, and a 300-meter access bridge on the Ndakhonga side, and a 108-meter-long access road on the Foundiougne side. In total, the bridge is 1,748.2 meters long. The permitted traffic speed is 80 km per hour and the structure life span is 100 years in terms of design requirements. The EIG erected a channel with a net width of 40 meters and a net height of 28 meters to allow shipping on the Saloum River to continue. As a result, boats can continue to cruise along the river. According to Chen, the project, which began in February 2018, is being funded by the Export-Import Bank of China and the Senegalese Government with a total of $71 million (more than 41 billion CFA francs) in investment. He promises that it will be operational in 2022.

Photo shows a section of the Senegal’s Foundiougne Bridge. (Photo/China Railway Group Limited)

An encouraging outlook

The completion of the bridge, according to Chen, will allow the road network and traffic to flow more smoothly, substantially improving traffic conditions, promoting economic and commercial exchanges in the Fatick region, and allowing for the ongoing development of high-quality tourism.

“This work is an important initiative for the Senegalese Government, adding value to the local economy of Foundiougne and the surrounding areas,” he added. The Agency for Road Works and Management is the technical arm of the Senegalese building and public works sector (Ageroute). The Foundiougne Bridge was built by the State of Senegal as part of the “Zero Bac” initiative, said its regional director Oumar Diouf. He believes that the work would successfully support regional economic growth through agricultural, fishery and tourist development, as well as international commerce between Senegal and neighboring nations, particularly Gambia, the two Guineas, and Mali.

Babacar Diamé, Mayor of Foundiougne, is planning big with the construction of this bridge, which would connect his city to the rest of Senegal.

He thinks so particularly because a brand new port has already been created near the bridge in Ndakhonga, and the construction of a hydrocarbon storage is nearly complete. These facilities, he claimed, will help to decongest the Dakar autonomous port, as well as give the region a far more appealing appearance.

“We are committed to providing the State of Senegal with a high-quality product that meets all of the requirements. We are working around the clock to achieve our deadlines,” Chen stated. Chen also expressed gratitude to the security forces and local officials for their support in completing the project.