On the opening day of the Africa Investment Forum in Johannesburg in 2019, Ghana signed an agreement with a South African company for a train project that would be built above ground. The rail lines were to be 194 km long and carry nearly 400,000 passengers per year in Greater Accra, covering five routes. Skytrain, the project’s trademark, was expected to create 5,000 jobs throughout the construction period.
None of this will happen anytime soon, according to Ghana’s Rail Development Minister John Peter Amewu, who said the project was too expensive and the country had other needs.
“I don’t see a sky train happening in the next 3 to 4 years, let’s be very frank with ourselves,” Amewu said on Citi TV, a Ghanaian private broadcaster, canceling any hopes President Nana Akufo-Addo would hold. one of the most ambitious projects in a masterplan for the Accra metro.
âOne kilometer of railroad is about four to five times the cost of building concrete infrastructure in terms of building an asphalt road,â Amewu said.
The pragmatic turnaround points to the economic realities of a country whose image of a rapidly growing continental challenger sometimes masks years of jobless growth exacerbated by covid-19, and a national debt / GDP ratio close to 80%.
Reality brings the utopia of the Skytrain back to earth
At this investment forum two years ago, Akufo-Addo described the signing of the Skytrain deal as proof of his desire to improve life in Ghana, addressing growing concerns over traffic and pollution from the air in the country’s capital, prone to flooding.
He was joined at the ceremony by the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Akinwunmi Adesina, who said the Skytrain would “modernize Ghana, providing green transport for its citizens”.
Under the terms of the deal, the South African concessionaire would build, own and operate the Skytrain for an undisclosed number of years at a cost of $ 2.6 billion. The company reportedly conducted feasibility studies in 2018 at its own expense before moving to the MoU in 2019. The money for the project was to come from a consortium of South African investors, with the Ghana Infrastructure Investment Fund playing the role of fiduciary guardian on behalf of the government.
The deal was not a seal that the project would be delivered. The details of funding and mobilization had not been finalized, as then-Rail Infrastructure Minister Joe Ghartey said. A final closure was to be reached in 2020.
It is not clear whether the final closure has been reached, but Ghartey’s successor (under the same government and political party) all but canceled the deal. âOur taxes cannot allow us to do [the project] unless we agree to collect taxes, âAmewu told Citi TV.
The Skytrain U-turn comes at a time when Ghanaians suffer a 1.75% tax on online transactions, a second consecutive month of inflation exceeding central bank targets and threatening commercial drivers stop road trips due to rising fuel prices.
But as Ghanaians bemoan the electronic tax and fuel prices, they largely shrug their shoulders in response to the Skytrain news.
Given the pageantry surrounding the 2019 signing event, it would seem necessary that an official statement clarify the status of the Skytrain project, from the Ghanaian government and AfDB. None had come up at the time of going to press.
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