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West Africa Rising: Senegal hopes new $450 million airport will make it a world trade hub

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West Africa Rising is a weekly look at business, investment, and development trends.

Let's book a flight.

Accra, Ghana to Lomé, Togo. Distance Traveled: 100 miles. Cost of Ticket: $727.

Compare that to a flight from Accra to London. Distance Traveled: 3,165 miles over two seas, the world's largest desert, its second-smallest continent, a pair of formidable mountain ranges, and finally Big Ben before touching down on one of the most crowded and surely expensive runways to land on in the world. Cost of Ticket: $618.

Why is air travel between African cities so expensive? It's less a question than an outrageous fact of movement on this continent where every country boasts a national airline, a national beer, and a mildewy airport to serve them both.

This is a continent whose infrastructure runs away from itself; just consider the road from Accra to Lomé, a brutal, four-hour trail of tears that rumbles over potholes and splashes onto flooded ponds. By comparison, the autoroute from Ghana's capital to its port – and from there, Europe – is among the slickest routes in Africa.

So, too, will be the $315 million highway being paved between Senegal's capital, Dakar, and its new $450 million airport 40 miles outside of town. The Senegalese government wants its new airport to become an 21st-century global hub: a 30-gate sleek cut of concrete and glass upon whose runways Africa shall meet the world.

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