Many urban residents these days will find it hard to imagine a life without mobile apps that help us locate a restaurant, hail a cab, or find a subway station—usually in a matter of seconds. for example, geospatial data on land-use change and built-up land expansion can provide for more responsive urban planning, while information on traffic conditions, road networks, and solid waste sites can help optimize management and enhance the quality of urban living.
The “urban geo-data gap”
However, information and data that provide the latest big picture on urban land and services often fail to keep up with rapid population growth and land expansion. This is especially the case for cities in developing countries—home to the fastest growing urban and vulnerable populations.
Amina and her family had recently moved to their new house on the outskirts of Dakar, Senegal. It was built by the government to relocate families from low-lying and flood-prone neighborhoods in the city. The house was small for her extended family of ten, but it was water that she worried about. I was puzzled. Usually people complain that water connection costs are too high, but she received that connection for free—the meter and tap were right there in her front yard.
Why did she worry?
Why is Senegal’s Dakar-Diamniadio toll road, which opened on time and on budget in August 2013, so successful? The road has dramatically improved urban mobility around Dakar, reducing commute times between the city and its suburbs from two hours to less than 30 minutes.
Building on this positive experience, in 2014 the Government of Senegal awarded a further concession to extend the motorway to connect it to Dakar’s new Blaise Diagne International Airport. Excluding South Africa, this is the first greenfield road PPP in sub-Saharan Africa. What lessons can we draw?
- Political commitment. The Government of Senegal set the project as a priority. The first driver on the road was the President – who paid the toll. But commitment alone isn’t enough; it needs to be turned into action by government agencies. An intra-agency coordinating committee was set up. The National Agency for the Promotion of Investments (APIX) oversaw the preparation of the concession. The Public Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility (PPIAF) supported APIX with technical assistance, including the design of a framework for the oversight of the project.
- Consensus-building and stakeholder engagement. Part of PPIAF’s US$250,000 grant to the Government of Senegal helped to pay for seminars with stakeholder groups to discuss structuring options for the road and socio-economic drivers of the willingness to pay. The final structure chosen involved a relatively low toll, with an upfront contribution by the government to the cost, with the concessionaire taking full construction, operating and traffic risk. The combination of careful outreach to stakeholders, a fairly low toll, significant time savings and a well-maintained road meant that the first toll road in the country was accepted by the population. In addition, the fact that there is a free alternative road helped the Government and other stakeholders point out that motorists could always choose to use the other route.
- Experienced concessionaire with strong commitment to Senegal. The concessionaire, the Eiffage Group is one of Europe’s leading construction and toll road operating companies, with a long history of involvement in, and commitment to, Senegal. Eiffage, through the special purpose company set up to construct and operate for 30 years the road, SENAC S.A., ensured that the road was constructed and is being operated to a high standard, on time and within budget.
After a successful set of consultations around Africa’s pre-eminent gathering of water experts, policy makers, and civil society, the Cooperation in International Waters (CIWA) program is back from the 5th Annual Water Week (AWW) convened by the African Ministers’ Council on Water in Dakar in late May.