Sumaya Adams, a Ghanaian businesswoman who quit her corporate job some years ago to grow her family business, says that after she posted its all-natural, women-centred products on social media, her grandmother’s handmade shea butter recipe gained popularity across Africa.
She said her goal is to increase its market across the continent and feels the presence of a good road network would help not only drive sales but also advance regional integration among countries in West Africa.
“In my former company, I used to work in Lagos and Abuja for over a year, and I was able to see the opportunities that are in Lagos because the population of Lagos is more than the entire country of Ghana or the same size,” Adams said when she was interviewed on the Voice of America news programme five months ago. “So, we were talking about taking it to a bigger market.”
Kenneth Isimeme, a 45-year-old Nigerian trader who lives in Lagos, has always had a dream of expanding his business into the buzzing francophone city of Abidjan. Isimeme makes cashew nuts and hopes that the several road bumps on the treacherous road to Abidjan will one day be a thing of the past.
“My dream is to one day take products as far as Abidjan,” he said when he spoke to BusinessDay on the phone. “But for now, the road is not friendly. Some portion of the road heading to the Togo axis has a lot of challenges, and I hope it can be sorted out soon.”
He added, “But I really look forward to having a standard road that covers that axis, as I believe it would not only make it easy to send my products to larger markets within the ECOWAS sub-region but also help regional integration.”
These are just a few of the many Nigerians and other West Africans who ply these routes to sell their goods or hope for a more seamless interconnected market that will help the sub-region grow economically.
In the just concluded African Investment Forum, which took place in Marrakesh, Morocco, Akinwunmi Adesina, the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), called on the continent’s political and economic leaders to invest more money and other resources into road infrastructure. Saying that the economic success of the continent depends on the presence of these infrastructures.
Adesina said, “The Africa Continental Free Trade Area, when fully operational, offers incredible opportunities for boosting intra-regional trade and the emergence of more competitive national, regional, and globally connected value chains. This can only be achieved through the development of infrastructure.”
Identifying the importance of road infrastructure in regional integration and trade in Africa, the AfDB, understanding the economic importance of the ‘Abidjan-Lagos road corridor’, said that it has invested US$479 million on that road project.
The bank said that its investment has not only upgraded 212km out of the 1,028km of the Abidjan-Lagos road but has the potential to drive more than 75 percent of cross-border trade activities between Nigerians and other West African states.
The bank added that the Abidjan-Lagos corridor has so far benefited more than 10 million people living around this project area and is forecast to benefit more than 400 million people living in Nigeria, Togo, Benin Republic, Ghana, and Ivory Coast.
In a report titled “Cross Border Road Corridors: Expanding Market Access in Africa and Nurturing Continental Integration”, the AfDB said that “the Abidjan-Lagos Corridor is a subset of the longer Dakar-Lagos Corridor, and its development falls under the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA).
The corridor is 1028 km long and crosses four coastal borders. It connects the most densely populated and economically active parts of the sub-region and interconnects with a rail network, major ports, and airports.
The corridor currently supports approximately 75 percent of the trade activities of the sub-region and is considered the spine for multi-modal trade logistics.”
AfDB’s significant investment of $479 million on that route began with projects in trade hubs in Ghana, which were followed by the upgrading of coastal road sections in Benin and Togo, including a 2×2 expressway.
The bank also financed work to protect the existing infrastructure against coastal erosion. A one-stop border post was built between Benin and Togo. In 2018, the Bank funded feasibility studies on the effective implementation of a proposed new six-lane (3-lane dual) carriageway highway on the corridor.
The route, which is the eastern part of the Dakar-Lagos corridor and a part of the Trans-African Highway network, is made up of Côte d’Ivoire: 144km (Bingerville, Grand Bassam, Aboisso, Noé), Ghana: 520 km (Elubo, Takoradi, Accra, Tema, Kasseh, Akanu), Togo: 90 km (Noépé, Tsévié, Adangbé, Pont Athiémé), Benin: 127 km (Athiémé, Ouinga, Tori-Bossito, Godomey, Kraké), and Nigeria: 82 km (Sémé, Badagry, Agbara, Mile 2, Eric Moore).
As per the development bank’s report, their investment in the corridor has yielded significant results, including a 4 percent increase in ECOWAS trade from 2011 to 2025, faster travel times reduced from 75 hours to 36 hours, shorter border crossing times from 7 hours to 3 hours, and a 20 percent boost in trade at the Hillacondji border between 2010 and 2014.
ECOWAS admitted in one of its reports about the road that “the Corridor, when fully developed, will fulfil a territorial developmental function and allow for the opening of landlocked countries such as Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger.”