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Sierra Leone News: President Bio proposes construction of Lungi Bridge to Chinese company

President Julius Maada Bio has proposed the construction of a bridge linking Lungi to Freetown to a Chinese company, Power China International Group Ltd. during his state visit to China. During the 2018 election campaign, Bio pledged to can the APC-Chinese airport proposed for Mamamah. After his election, Pres. Bio canceled the airport project.
President Bio said a connecting bridge will open Sierra Leone for business and attract more investors and tourists. He said Freetown is too congested and the construction of a bridge will reduce that congestion and promote economic development. He encouraged Power China International to consider the construction of Lungi Bridge as a very important project that will bring huge relief to many Sierra Leoneans and make our country an enviable tourist destination.
A linking bridge has been talked about, planned and canceled since the 80s. Feasibility studies were completed under the late President Kabbah. According to Paramount Chief of Kaffu Bullom Chiefdom in the Port Loko district, which includes Tagrin, Bai Shebora Sheba Gbereh III, during the 2012 elections the ruling All People’s Congress (APC) promised that if they won the elections they would construct a bridge linking Freetown to Targrin. According to him, the promise to build a bridge across the estuary linking the west with the north was made during a public meeting attended by President Koroma himself.
During the commissioning of the Government Wharf jetty, kissy ferry terminal and jetty, Aberdeen Helipad, the Lungi Targrin jetty and helipads at the Government Wharf Freetown, President Koroma said, “The project for the construction of a bridge linking Freetown and Lungi is ongoing and his Government is committed to it until the end. “These are projects that will be implemented in the first half of my second term in office.”
In May 2011, President Koroma opened a two day Tripartite Investment Conference at the Country Lodge, Hill Station, Freetown. The conference was jointly organized by the 50th Anniversary Committee, the Ministry of Finance and SLIEPA under the Ministry of Trade and Industry. The meeting based its deliberations on the establishment of a new city, a bridge and an improved Airport in Lungi.
Discussions at this meeting revolved around the creation of a new development hub including a new city located in Lungi and a fully expanded up-scale, international airport at Lungi. This will consequently require an improved transport connectivity and flow of traffic between the new city and Freetown, once again echoing the call for the Lungi Bridge.
To reach Sierra Leone’s Lungi International Airport from the capital of Freetown, travelers must cross a river estuary that is roughly 16 km across at its widest point.
In a research report on traveller crossings done in 2013, it notes, all travelers arriving at Lungi Airport must choose between up to four transportation alternatives – the local ferry, helicopter, hovercraft, or water taxi. Each of the alternatives varies in terms of historical accident risk, trip duration and monetary cost. Since 2013, the helicopter and hovercraft have been grounded and only the local ferry and two water taxi companies remain active.
In China, the President of Power China International Group Ltd, Song Dongsheng, said that Power China is very interested to construct the Lungi Bridge. He said the bridge will also create many employment opportunities. One major challenge for the construction of the Lungi Bridge has always been the financing aspect and Song Dongsheng assured President Bio that financing will be through off-balance sheet.
The Minister of Finance, Jacob J. Saffa, said he was pleased with the proposed financing of the construction of the Lungi Bridge saying that off-balance sheet is the most internationally acceptable mode of financing as that will not incur any debt to the Government.
Off-balance sheet financing may be used when a business is close to its borrowing limit and wants to make an asset purchase, as a method of lowering borrowing rates, or as a way of managing risk, according to www.investopedia.com. This type of financing may also be used for funding projects, subsidiaries or other assets in which the business has a minority claim.
The Chief Minister, David J. Francis said that while the proposed construction of the Lungi Bridge is the key priority, the whole package of the project will include the expansion of the airport and creating an economic free zone. The Chief Minister said that constructing a bridge will mean increased traffic for flights and passengers, which is why expansion of the airport must go with the construction of the bridge.
The President of Power China International Group Ltd agreed to visit Sierra Leone in October to review the bridge project and financing.
Monday September 03, 2018.

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