The two countries share a name and a river – the second biggest river in Africa, the Congo River. They also share many similarities, including a common language. The Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo are neighbours. Snaking between them is the majestic river, rich in natural resources; and their citizens both speak Lingala.
Now they share a dream. A dream to bridge their aspirations, integrate their countries and further cement their economies, which would spread to other countries in eastern and southern Africa. A bridge is coming over the Congo River from the village of Maloukou in the Republic of Congo to Maluku in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The project with an initial estimated cost of €430 million, has been on the drawing board for some time now. It is part of the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa of the African Union and some of the financing is being provided by the African Development Bank.
Local officials say the project would incorporate roads and a railway line. It will also provide one-stop customs and immigration services from each side of the crossing.
“When custom on one side checks a truck, it won’t be checked at the other side,” a Congolese official tells journalists of the PIDA Journalists Network who during a workshop in Brazzaville went on a tour of the site.
Maloukou is perched on the outskirts of the Congolese capital of Brazzaville. A predominantly farming community of some 500 people, its chief, Rolf Ngatsile, says he wants the project to ‘start now’. Because he believes it would bring much needed economic improvement to his people.
He also believes the project will bring good roads to his people. According to officials, a 3.5km road would be constructed to connect Brazzaville and another 7.4km to connect Kinshasa in the DRC.
According to the AU, the project is divided into two sections. The Republic of Congo will lead the bridge, road component and the DR Congo will lead the 1000km rail component between Kinshasa and Ilebo.
“The overall objective is to design a set of infrastructure aimed at improving the regional transportation and trade connectivity through the construction of a fixed crossing linking Kinshasa and Brazzaville,” the AU says on its website.
Ultimately, the project is expected to improve regional connectivity towards eastern and southern Africa.
The local people are excited. But there would be some displacements, when the project starts. However, local authorities say that would be taken care of, as there are plans in the project design to re-settle all those who would affected.
As some ferries cruise on the river, and some fishermen paddle their canoes along the banks, and the sun rises and settles over the river, leaders of the two neighbouring countries, are looking forward with hope, of a rising bridge that will make connecting the two countries easier and economically and socially meaningful.
By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi, back from Brazzaville, Congo
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