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Published: Monday February 17, 2014 MYT 3:55:02 AM
Updated: Monday February 17, 2014 MYT 3:55:55 AM

New Ivory Coast bridge ready by December, could boost growth - Bouygues

ABIDJAN (Reuters) - A third bridge crossing the lagoon in Ivory Coast's economic capital Abidjan will be completed in December and could add one percentage point to economic growth, a senior executive at French construction company Bouygues said.

The 1.5 km (1 mile) bridge, linked to a new six-lane motorway, will be the first major infrastructure project completed in Abidjan since a 2002-2003 civil war dragged the country into a decade of turmoil.

President Alassane Ouattara, who took office in 2011 after a short civil conflict triggered by his election win a year earlier, has focused on kick-starting growth in the world's largest cocoa producer, pushing ahead with a number of ambitious infrastructure projects.

"The works are running on schedule," said Charles Paradis, chief executive officer of Bouygues Construction Concession, a subsidiary that manages infrastructure projects. "The timetable will be respected for it to open in December, specifically on December 22," he added on Saturday.

With only two bridges currently crossing the Ebrie lagoon around which Abidjan, Ivory Coast's economic capital is built, traffic in the centre of the city is often gridlocked.

Paradis said the bridge would cut the time required to cross the lagoon - from the residential Riviera district to commercial hub of Marcory near the port - from two hours to roughly three minutes, boosting economic activity by reducing time lost in traffic.

"This will bring economic benefits," Paradis said. "It doesn't seem absurd to me to say that we could gain one point of growth in gross domestic product."

Ivory Coast's roughly $40 billion economy makes up nearly half of West Africa's eight-nation CFA franc currency bloc.

Paradis said the toll for using the bridge was still being considered but could be between 700 CFA francs and 1,000 CFA francs ($1.50 and $2.00).

The 270 million euro project was partly financed by the Africa Finance Corporation (AFC), a Nigeria-based fund which aims to finance infrastructure projects in Africa.

AFC's chief executive Andrew Alli told Reuters it had around $1 billion in capital on its balance sheet for financing new projects. He said the fund aimed to help the continent reduce an infrastructure financing deficit he estimated at $30 billion a year. ($1 = 479.2900 CFA francs)

(This story corrects identity of Bouygues executive quoted in story)

(Reporting by Ange Aboa; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Kevin Liffey)

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