Rail project to link 4 W African states
Niamey - Niger, Ivory Coast, Benin and Burkina Faso on Wednesday agreed to start work in 2014 on a 2 700km rail project to improve the region's economic integration.
"A roadmap will be drawn up soon in order to secure financing for this important regional economic integration project and allow for construction to begin in 2014," said a joint statement issued in Niger.
No cost was given for the project which is expected to form a loop linking Cotonou and Abidjan, two of the region's main ports and the economic capitals of Benin and Ivory Coast respectively.
The railroad is to run along the full length of Benin, pass through Niamey and Ouagadougou - the capitals of landlocked Niger and Burkina Faso - and call in at the main cities of Ivory Coast, the world's top cocoa producer.
Led by the African Development Bank, donors gathered in Niamey since Tuesday vowed to support the project.
Faster rail transport should help the four countries develop closer trade ties and share crop surpluses more effectively.