Algeria: On June 28, Algeria hosted the 73rd Ministerial Session of the Liaison Committee on Trans-Saharan Roads (CLRT). This meeting brought together the ministers of the countries concerned with this strategic path, namely Tunisia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, and national and international financial institutions.
The African Union Road, renamed the “Trans-Saharan Road”, is now approaching the five decades of its existence, as it was considered, at its inception, as a gigantic project with the aim of linking the countries of the Black Continent, and embodying the model of cooperation. . “I have given over forty years of my life to this project, and I am proud of everything that has been accomplished so far,” said Mohamed Ayadi, Secretary General of CLRT. Isn’t an unfinished project yet, all things considered, a political utopia? Absolutely not, according to Mr. Ayadi.
The Trans-Saharan Route (RTS), which is still incomplete in its Mali and Chad parts, must cross Algeria (3,400 km), Tunisia (900 km), Mali (1,974 km), Niger (1,635 km), Chad ( 900 km) and Nigeria (1,131 km). It actually links two Maghreb capitals, Algeria and Tunisia, and is supposed to eventually link four sub-Saharan capitals: Bamako, Niamey, N’Djamena and Lagos.
Mohamed Ayadi admits that the work of the RTS, which began in 1975, “often slows down due to several factors”, explaining that it is particularly related to the “lack of financial resources”. In March 2012, the Kuwait Fund for Economic Development granted a loan of 5 billion CFA francs to Niger (1 CFA franc = 0.0015 euros) for the development and asphalting of the axis linking the city of Arlit to Asamaka on the border with Algeria. This work is now complete.
Mr. Ayadi asserts that the delay is also due to “the effects of political instability” in some Sahel countries, in particular the war in Mali, and threats from terrorist groups in the Sahara.
He prefers to draw attention to “what has been achieved” rather than to the delays “which are an objective consequence of a political reality and a difficult economic situation”. Indeed, “RTS already exists” by Mohamed Ayadi who cites the example of Tunisia and Nigeria who have completed their quotas, as well as Algeria, while Mali, Niger and Chad are using international financial institutions in the hope of completing the remainder of a project.
Giant project, for what economic benefits?
Mr. Ayadi is optimistic about the economic benefits of this mega project, which “comes side by side with the desire of countries to increase the volume of intra-African trade, which is still low (3%), at a time when the agreement on creating the African Continental Free Trade Area (Zlecaf) has entered into force. ) comes into force and since Algeria, keen to change the paradigm in its approach to economic development, is giving signals of greater openness to the continent”, he emphasizes.
The Secretary General of the CLRT notes that as an economic infrastructure, “the RTS is poised to embody the objectives of this project, i.e. accelerating, consolidating and consolidating trade exchanges between member countries for greater regional integration.” Mohamed Ayadi also noted that the rate of progress is over 90%, explaining that the six member states represent 27% of the continent’s GDP and 25% of its population. This is what should be highlighted according to him, who states that the RTS was “initially designed to promote economic exchanges between the countries of the Maghreb and the Sahel.”
What about the economic profitability and social impact of this giant African project? Mr. Ayadi stressed the need for member states to “take measures, including the establishment of a strategic agreement that defines a cooperation mechanism and a sustainable management system to achieve the goal of cooperation at the regional level.” It is considered for this purpose that if the RTS is not the determining variable for the improvement of the economic situation, “it is nevertheless the factor which can activate economic operators and significantly increase the level of trade exchanges”.
RTS: the backbone of the African economy
Referring to the urgent need to “establish a body to promote trade among member states,” Mohamed Ayadi explained that “this ambition is in line with the objectives of the African Union and the strategies of international partners to support the social and global economic development of the continent.”
Considering the RTS as a strategic nerve center, the CLRT Secretary General believes that economic approaches to managing road and transport infrastructure in general highlight the system known as “Trade and Transport Corridors”.
“From an economic point of view, the function of the corridor is to promote internal and external trade by providing more efficient transportation and logistics services, and to support connectivity and economic development along the routes,” explains Mr. Ayadi and adds: “These corridors allow member regions and countries to offer high-quality transportation systems and services. Capacity reduces transportation time, as well as trade and transportation costs through economies of scale.”
“A feasibility study showed that operators in northern Niger and northern Mali, who would send their goods via RTS from Mediterranean ports rather than the Gulf of Guinea, would save eleven days,” he points out. For him, regional corridors are of particular interest to landlocked countries, as they represent economic opportunities for them and often provide the only land routes to ports of entry and regional and international markets.
Nigeria and Algeria together account for 77% of the total population and 88% of the GDP of the RTS corridor countries.
Mohamed Ayadi stresses that “Any project aimed at upgrading the RTS road corridors into an economic corridor and modernizing border posts must focus on trade and the appropriate integration of local populations benefiting from related activities into economic development that is predominantly regional in nature. It is a feature of the RTS that It could in the future form the “Silk Road of the Continent,” the CLRT Secretary General hopes.