Highway redesigns Dakar

In August 2013, Senegal inaugurated the first toll highway to be financed from a unique combination of public and private funds. It spans over 32km from Dakar’s city centre to Diamniadio, the new centre of economic growth located on the outskirts of the capital. This road is the masterpiece of the government’s public infrastructure project. It has been built to put a stop to traffic congestion and to significantly reinforce the role of the Dakar metropolitan area as a driver for economic development in Senegal. Before it became operational, mobility in and out of the peninsula had become severely congested.

A breakthrough received positively

Because the road goes through the suburbs’ most populated areas, the urban rehabilitation of these areas is planned to commence in order to prevent floods and improve the quality of basic public facilities and social services. This should revitalise the city’s declining neighbourhoods and reduce the impact of the highway on urban division. Indeed, the construction of the highway has separated the North from the South. Entire suburbs have been brutally divided.

This breakthrough has been received positively because it contributes to increased accessibility, value, and integration of long marginalised suburbs into the urban fabric. The urban division resulting from the construction of the highway is likely to stimulate a new dynamic within the concerned municipalities. The foundations for an urban policy are being created. Today, the authorities are trying to overcome the consequences of divisions within the social fabric. Strategies are being developed to occupy the previously expropriated lands which, in some cases, are land reserves meant for amenities, protected from the population’s “land-grabbing” practices.

To provide for the resettlement of the thousands of displaced persons, a new town equipped with the basic infrastructure has been created in the peri-urban area of Dakar. Even a waste water management plant is being constructed there. The standard of the amenities ensures that the resettlement site is seen as the upmarket area of Dakar’s periphery.

Since this town is located close to the only landfill in the capital requiring permanent closure, an alternative landfill which meets environmental standards has been developed close to the new airport. But due to opposition from the general public, the plans are moving towards an institutional evolution of the CADAK-CAR agreement in order to integrate the local communities hosting the project into the inter-communal gathering dedicated to waste management in the region.

The highway project is attached to a plethora of sub-projects aimed at addressing the social and environmental challenges related to its implementation. One of these sub-projects is the development of the Mbao forest which is located in the heart of Dakar. By the project’s end, the forest is intended to be become a recreational space for relaxation and leisure in the style of European urban parks. The highway has contributed to an increase in the value of this dense forest and in mobilising the initial funding.

This is exactly why this project is considered to be an integrated and structural urban project. As such, the highway can no longer be perceived simply as transportation infrastructure but indeed as a major instrument for the development of our city and as a vector for urbanisation.

The highway as a vector for urbanisation

The highway tends to turn dense, macrocephalic cities into sprawling and multipolar cities thus, undoubtedly, contributing to increased mobility. In this way, the urban sprawl’s vicious circle is highlighted. Indeed, thanks to the highway, urbanisation is made possible in peri-urban areas at a much faster rate. Besides, well before becoming operational, new construction projects along the entire length of the highway and in its immediate surroundings have developed at a dramatic pace. This unavoidable peri-urbanisation has contributed to the decongestion of densely populated areas. This, without a doubt, will have a real impact on land and rent prices in the region and even beyond.

From the points explained above, it can be concluded that the toll highway is clearly redesigning the Dakar metropolitan area not only in terms of road infrastructure, but also with regards to urbanism and the environment, thus making APIX, the project developer, an undisputable player in urban development in Dakar.

Alé Badara Sy, geographer and urbanist, is the founding President of the Club de Réflexion sur l’Urbain, a think tank on urban issues in Senegal. He was in charge of coordinating, within UN-Habitat, the urban development strategy of greater Dakar.  Today, he works in the field of public works.

Head image: Dakar to Diamniadio toll highway. APIX.

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