By Paul Ndiho, Washington D.C
September 21, 2012
As Gabon prepares itself to co-host the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations with Equatorial Guinea, a coordinated effort is underway to improve the country’s infrastructure. The 2012 Africa Cup of Nations football tournament, which Gabon is co-hosting with Equatorial Guinea, requires new infrastructure. In Libreville, a new multi-million dollar Hospital and Cancer Research center is nearing completion. It is financed by an Australian based company, VAMED.
“This project is a new general hospital and a Cancer Institute that we have here together 15,000 square meters of which 1,400 square meters is for the Cancer Institute and the rest is for the hospital. The Cancer Institute will be operational and running in 2012 and hospital including all departments, cardiology, and operational theatre and so on will be running end of November 2011.The project will be finished in 5 weeks and we have planned to hand over the keys of the project at end of November 2011.”
Meanwhile, across from this new hospital, a football arena, the Sino-Friendship Stadium, is being built for Gabon by the Chinese government.
“Chinese construction workers are putting final touches to this stadium that is going to be the place to be – come the next Africa Cup of Nations.”
Officials say this and other stadiums will be ready ahead of schedule. Overseeing this development is the new National Agency for Major Projects, with help from the US-based engineering company, Bechtel. Henri Ohayon is in charge of the construction projects.
“This project is approximately 140-150 million dollars. The stadium has around 40,000 seats, as explained today, it’s being designed to support and allow some of the best evacuation. If you see the construction you could see that each of the coolants aside one has 48 meters and the other one has 62 meters it’s like a bird whose coming to land and turning …that’s what we call coming from Asia to Africa.”
Despite having natural resources such as oil, timber and manganese, Gabon’s infrastructure is underdeveloped. The country’s transport links are in dire need for improvement. Paved roads, and inter-city connecting roads are scarce But earlier this year, a new luxury ferry – MS Bekelya – began service between Libreville and the second largest city of Port Gentile. The ferry is a joint investment between a Gabonese ferry Company, a U-S based company, and Norway. Captain Michael says this ship is the only one of its kind in the region.
“The name of this ship is MS Bekelya, it’s a high speed craft, we have two MT engines with 2700 horse power, the ship is made in Norway, and average speed is 32 knots and we take this craft from Port Gentile to Libreville, which is approximately 2.5 hours. We need 30 minutes to at least boat and un-boat the ship. On this ship we have 266 seats, 66 are VIP and business and 200 are economic class. The ship is 22 years old but very well maintained.”
Cutting 90 minutes off the previous journey time by an older ferry, the route is proving popular with both commuters and people in the city wanting a weekend getaway. Meanwhile, ferry service between Libreville and Port Mole is running six days a week and is expected to increase. Captain Michael says the MS Bekelya is one of the safest ferries in Gabon.
“When we are speaking about safety, this ship is okay. We have life rafts, we have complete safety equipment, fire equipment and we have everything that this kind of ship should have and even more…. Because like I told you, this ship came from Norway and Norway is top when we are speaking about safety because they have this big sailing tradition and this is very good.”
Analysts say that this ferry service will be well established ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations, when the demand for seats on flights, trains and boats is likely to rise sharply.