Gambia’s President Adama Barrow and his Senegalese counterpart Macky Sall have officially inaugurated a 1.8 km bridge, realizing a decades-old ambition to ease long-standing constraints in the movement of peoples from both banks of the River Gambia.
Amidst much pomp and fanfare on the outskirts of the border town of Farafenni Barrow and Sall on Monday afternoon described the so-called Senegambia bridge as a monumental achievement that would transform the lives and economics of the peoples of the two countries and by extension the rest of West Africa.
Both leaders said the infrastructure over the river should serve as the building block for greater Senegambian collaboration and integration and facilitate serious cultural and social interactions among West Africans.
They said although both countries have been unfortunetey separated by different colonial experiences, their people are one and the same and should not despair in finding common grounds in their march toward a common destiny.
Declaring it officially opened to vehicular traffic, President Barrow said there was nothing more fitting than calling it the Senegambia Bridge, a name which captures the spirit and essence of the two countries' shared destiny.
Earlier, both leaders shared an open top presidential ride to the venue of the inauguration, donning the same identical white gown topped with hats of the ssame colour.
The lack of a physical infrastructure over the Gambia River in the past had posed serious challenges to the free flow of intra as well as interstate movement of peoples, goods and services in the area and beyond.
Rickety ferries were entirely relied on to ferry people, goods and services to both banks of the river, causing untold delays and other constraints to trade especially in perishable products.
The Senegambia Bridge connects both banks of the river, linking the north to the southern half of Senegal otherwise physically separated by The Gambia.
As the main beneficiaries, both countries believe that the advent of a landmark bridge across the waters will look to ease trade and other movements to other parts of the region including to other West African neighbours such as Guinea Bissau and Mali.
The $93million bridge, an idea mooted in the mid 1970s was mainly funded by the African Development Bank as part of its drive for greater economic integration in the region through its flagship Trans West Africa Corridor project linking Dakar and Lagos.
The toll bridge which took four years to build over the River Gambia is 942 metres wide and five storeys high.
It has a 100-year safety guarantee according to the engineers.
Building and engineering works started in 2015 four years after Gambia officially signed an agreement to build it on its territory with over 90 percent financial outlay by the African Development Bank.