Benin president taps China for controversial railway

2018-03-22 22:00
Patrice Talon. (File, AFP)

Patrice Talon. (File, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Cotonou - Benin's President Patrice Talon has asked local firm Petrolin and French giant Bollore to "withdraw" from a major rail infrastructure project to make way for China, in the latest development of the controversial scheme.

In an interview published on Thursday in the French magazine Challenges, Talon asked the two companies to "withdraw amicably from the project", which links Benin to Niger to the north, promising they will be "compensated fairly".

"A private investor cannot finance the railway we want alone," the head of state was quoted as saying, describing Bollore's offer as "lower-end".

"China has the necessary financial means" to support work estimated to cost around $4bn, said Talon.

"China has demonstrated its technical know-how" to build infrastructure in Africa, added the president, who rarely speaks to the media.

Talon's remarks are the latest twist in a saga that has been going on for years.

In 2008, Benin and Niger launched a bid to manage the construction and management of a 740km railway network linking Cotonou and Niamey.

The bid was won by Petrolin, a company owned by Beninese businessman Samuel Dossou, but was handed over by the government in 2013 to the Bollore group through Benirail, a company representing a public-private partnership.

KEEP UPDATED on the latest news from around the continent by subscribing to our FREE newsletter, Hello Africa.

FOLLOW News24 Africa on Twitter and Facebook. 

However last October, a Benin judge ruled that Petrolin should have had the contract and dismissed Bollore.

Standstill 

After years in court and months of negotiations, the project remains at a standstill, strangling growth in the country of 10 million inhabitants whose economy depends on distribution of goods from its port.

Petrolin representatives said that despite Talon's statement they have not been given formal notice to withdraw.

"The withdrawal of Petrolin will be the result of negotiations between Benin and Niger," said Petrolin spokesperson Claudine Affiavi Prudencio.

"This option (the withdrawal of the project) is not yet formally notified to the Petrolin group" and "at this moment the group hasn't failed", said a source close to the Beninese businessman contacted by AFP.

But a source at the presidency said that the onus was now on the companies to show they can move forward on the project.

"Heads of state (Benin and Niger) have tried to bring them together (Petrolin and Bollore) without success," a presidency source told AFP.

"It would be up to them to show then that they can agree to carry a convincing project," he said.

There was no immediate comment from the Bollore group when contacted by AFP.


Read more on:    benin  |  niger  |  west africa

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Inside News24

 
/News
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.