Senegal Leads Rail Infrastructure, Logistics Renaissance

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Senegal is set for major economic changes in 2024, expecting a 10.6% boost in GDP. The country’s commitment to modernizing its infrastructure ahead of first oil and gas production is encapsulated in its national master plan, Plan Sénégal Émergent – or Plan for an Emerging Senegal. This vision involves large-scale infrastructure projects designed to boost regional connectivity and catalyze economic growth, from the rehabilitation of Saint-Louis Airport undertaken in 2023, to the inauguration of the Bus Rapid Transit System last month, to the planned construction of a highway linking Thiès and Saint-Louis.

At the core of this vision is a focus on railway development, demonstrated in part by the ongoing restoration of the entire railway network by Grands Trains du Sénégal (GTS). The expansion of domestic rail infrastructure aligns with broader goals of connecting Senegal’s various regions, such as the Kédougou and Saint-Louis areas, easing road traffic, and reinvigorating Thiès as a railway hub.

GTS, a public enterprise dedicated to railway passenger and freight transportation, began its efforts to revive and modernize Senegal’s railway infrastructure in 2020. This included upgrading rolling stock, implementing a comprehensive maintenance program and fostering partnerships for safety and operational efficiency. The modernized trains now offer both first- and second-class accommodations equipped with amenities such as Wi-Fi and air conditioning.

Key milestones include the launch of construction for the Thiès train station in February 2023 and successful trial runs connecting Thiès to Touba during the Grand Magal religious festival last September. During a trial and commercial simulation on the Thiès-Diamniadio axis last month, GTS President Malick Ndioye ensured that passenger transport would resume in the first quarter of 2024. The reopening of the freight line between the Port of Dakar and Tambacounda, an entry point to Casamance and Senegal’s mining regions, is currently at the discretion of authorities. Initially, four travel routes are planned, with future aspirations to extend the network to Mali.

The revival of Senegal’s railway network brings with it numerous economic and social advantages. It facilitates the movement of people, creates jobs and becomes a crucial asset for tourism development. On a regional level, the Senegalese railway network has the potential to open up new trade routes and enhance existing ones. The West African country, set to have more than three deep-sea ports by 2035, will serve as a gateway to Europe for landlocked nations like Mali and Burkina Faso, which are endowed with significant mineral resources, including gold.

As a result, the revamped railway network not only improves domestic connections, but also generates new opportunities in mining and energy sectors. Enhanced accessibility to remote areas, including gold-rich Kédougou or iron-rich La Langue de Barbarie, will serve to facilitate exploration and new discoveries of Senegal’s critical minerals. As demand for transition minerals continues to grow, the railway line could play a critical role in their export. For example, rail infrastructure could be utilized to transport bauxite from Guinea-Conakry to the Port of Dakar, easing the logistical burden on Guinea’s infrastructure, particularly the Port of Kamsar. In the long term, the Thiès-Saint-Louis line could also be used to transport refined petroleum products to the wider region, including LNG, propane and butane.

As Senegal advances toward first oil and gas production, the modernized railway system emerges as a key pillar for diversified growth. The MSGBC Oil, Gas & Power 2024 Conference & Exhibition will cast a spotlight on Senegal’s latest rail and infrastructure developments. Scheduled for December 3–4 in Dakar, the event unites key actors, investors and energy stakeholders from the region and beyond. Visit https://msgbcoilgasandpower.com/ to secure your spot now.

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