The cities of Niamey in Niger and Cotonou in Benin are to join forces in financing a series of technical studies into the economic and environmental impact of rehabilitating and extending the existing 438km Cotonou-Parakou railway in Benin to Dosso in Niger. The West African Economic and Monetary Union (Waemu) is said to be supporting the studies with $US250 million. In its initial phase, it is envisaged that the project would be controlled by a joint Benin-Niger Railway and Transport Unified company (OCBN), operated by both states. The governments of Benin and Niger have decided to float the operation of the OCBN railway and its trade dependencies in Niger by mean of an international offer call.
This process is to be placed in the hands of a private partner “with a good financial base” and proven experience in railway management. There have been two previous attempts at creating such a concession – in 2005 and 2008 – but neither was successful. Total Benin-Niger freight traffic is growing steadily, from 1.04 tonnes in 2005 to over 1.9 million tonnes in 2009. It is expected to grow further with the development of the major mining and petroleum potential of the Niger, as well as the agricultural development in northern Benin.