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Jigsaw of Trans-North Africa Highway nears completion



Several sections have already been completed, but economic crises, corruption, and revolutions have delayed the opening of this major infrastructure project that should enhance relations between North African countries. It will be a few more years before you can drive from Agadir to the Libyan border without leaving the highway.



The Mornag toll on the A1 between Tunis and Sfax, one of the links on the highway across North Africa (photo F.Dubessy)
The Mornag toll on the A1 between Tunis and Sfax, one of the links on the highway across North Africa (photo F.Dubessy)
Spanning nearly 3,000 km, this strip of tarmac will serve 55 towns in North Africa and more than 50 million inhabitants. For a long time a well-worn news story, the route across North Africa is gradually becoming a reality. And its role of encouraging the currently underdeveloped relations between North African countries remains obvious to everyone. Not only the countries concerned, but also the main financial backers - the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the African Development Bank (ADB) - and the project's promoters, the Arab Maghreb Union (UMA) and the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM).
With the inevitable prerequisite of political relations stabilising, particularly between Rabat and Algiers. But these infrastructure projects are pushing ahead and the right conditions are emerging.

Intended to link Agadir to Gabès and crossing Algeria, the highway was supposed to be completed in 2011. It is going to take a few more years. One reason for this is that while things are going smoothly in Morocco, and Algeria is on the right track, Tunisia seems to have ground to a halt since the revolution.
In Morocco, the 1,046 km planned between Agadir and Oujda in four sections (in the form of the A7, A3, and A2) have been ready since July 2011, at an estimated cost of 12 billion dirhams (1 billion euros).

The ball is now in Algeria's court which has to make its largest tarmac contribution with 1,216 km. Linked to its Moroccan partner, the East-West highway is the central link in the route across North Africa. Under construction since 2006, it will cross from one side of the country to the other. Delays mean that it will now cost $11 billion (€8,5 billion).
As for the Tunisian section, it will consist of 780 km from the Algerian border (Bousalem) to the Libyan border (Gabès).

Extensions are planned

The Trans-North Africa highway seems unlikely to stop after such a good start. There are already projects at its extremities that would extend it to 5,000 km from Nouakchott to Tripoli. To the east, linking Tunis to the Libyan border, will require 573 km of highway, much of which already exists as the A1 between Tunis and Sfax.

Currently under construction, the Sfax-Gabès highway (155 km) should be completed in early 2014, with an investment of €470 m.
182 km from Gabès to Ras Jedir (on the Libyan border) remain, via Medenine and Ben Gardane, which are back on the agenda following the announcement by Mohamed Salman, the Tunisian Minister of Equipment, at the end of January 2013, that the project would be completed in 2018.

It will then be Libya's turn to continue with another 200 km to Tripoli. With possible extensions to Tobruk and Murzuq. The project was endorsed with Italian funding before the revolution and has yet to be reactivated.

To the west, the Atlantic side of the trans-north Africa highway will link Agadir to Nouakchott. Once again, this would seem to be a long-term project.


Version française

Frédéric Dubessy


Tuesday, May 21st 2013



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