On 7 April 2014, the very first railway station in the history of Niger was inaugurated in Niamey, putting an end to the country’s 80-year wait.
It was also the first Nigerien plank in the ambitious project to build a west African rail loop over 2,700 km in length linking the political and economic capitals of Abidjan, Ouagadougou, Niamey, Cotonou and Lomé.
To celebrate this event, Mahamadou Issoufou, the President of Niger, was in attendance, alongside his counterparts from Benin, Thomas Boni Yayi, and Togo, Faure Gnassingbé, and Vincent Bolloré, the CEO of the Bolloré Group, which has operated in Niger since 1962, and is the strategic partner of this large-scale project.
To grasp the enthusiasm stirred by this historic day, a quick history lesson might be necessary. It was in the early 20th century that the construction of a railway starting in Ivory Coast and ending in Niger was first planned.
Work began on a first section linking Abidjan in Ivory Coast with Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso in 1903, but it stopped 500 km short of Niger. Another section, designed to link Cotonou and Niamey, began several years later in 1910. It reached Parakou in Benin, but not Niger.
Today, the relaunch of the Cotonou-Niamey project (with the opening of Dosso station on 18 December 2014) is more than just a symbol: it is an opportunity to complete this railway line of crucial importance to Niger’s development and growth. The railway line will, among other things, open this landlocked country up to the sea via its connection to the larger rail loop.
Niger began to write one of the most important pages in its industrial and human history last spring.