The Gambia has finally signed the US$20 million loan agreement with the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) to co-finance the expansion of the Bertil-Harding Highway. In December last year, the loan was approved at the organization’s 174th Session of the Governing Board, held virtually.
Excerpts of the loan agreement seen by The Chronicle state that “The upgrading of the road infrastructure will improve safety, reduce travel time and costs, and facilitate access to marketplaces, social amenities, and jobs for more than 520,000 people in the Greater Banjul Area“.
About the rationale of justifying the loan, the agreement document explains that “Gambia’s capital Banjul has experienced significant population growth in recent years; however, the city’s road transport infrastructure remains underdeveloped, resulting in travel bottlenecks and high transport costs. Therefore, the Gambian government has accorded high priority to upgrading its road network under its National Transport Policy to improve accessibility and foster competitiveness and trade“.
The 22 km-long Bertil-Harding Highway expansion project is a key activity for the Organisation of Islamic Corporation (OIC) Gambia’s proposed fifty kilometers (50KM) of 20 new urban road construction that were initially planned to commence March 2021.
The Bertil-Harding Highway is an important stretch that provides a link between Old Jeshwang and the Banjul International Airport, vital to the area’s connectivity. The expansion and upgrading of the Highway are co-financed with the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development, the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa, the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development, and the Gambian government.
OPEC Fund Director-General, Dr. Abdulhamid Alkhalifa, said, “The Gambia’s economy is heavily dependent on agriculture and tourism, which requires a well-functioning transport network. Increasing connectivity through more efficient transportation will support integration and trade and further promote social and economic activity for the citizens of the Greater Banjul Area.”
In addition to the present loan, OPEC Fund’s public sector commitments to The Gambia total close to $128 million supporting transportation, education, energy, and multi-sectoral projects.