Kano-Maradi Line: What’s Shaping Nigeria’s Infrastructural Choice, Politics or Economics?

Kano-Maradi Line: What’s Shaping Nigeria’s Infrastructural Choice, Politics or Economics?

Nigeria plans to spend $1.959 billion on the Kano-Maradi Standard Gauge Railway lines; The project has the potential of opening a vibrant export route and boosting the country’s economy; With Kano’s Dawanau market annual trade volume of $2.5 billion, Dataphyte’s analysis shows Nigeria could recoup her investment in a few years; However, further research reveals

Nigeria plans to spend $1.959 billion on the Kano-Maradi Standard Gauge Railway lines;

The project has the potential of opening a vibrant export route and boosting the country’s economy;

With Kano’s Dawanau market annual trade volume of $2.5 billion, Dataphyte’s analysis shows Nigeria could recoup her investment in a few years;

However, further research reveals a potential security concern and calls for a review of the current security strategies and immediate implementation of the 2019 national security policy.

Exuding so much excitement about how the commitment of his administration to infrastructural development, is changing the face of Africa’s most populous country,  President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday performed the historic ground breaking ceremony for the construction of the Kano-Katsina-Jibiya-Maradi rail project, giving fillip to a feasibility study earlier done by the Goodluck Jonathan administration between 2012-2015. The essence is not only to open up some north western cities for industrial development but also for Nigeria to corner a great deal of coastal bound cargo from the sahelian region.

In January, the Federal Government (FG) of Nigeria signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Mota-Engil Group to construct the $1.959 billion Kano-Maradi Standard Gauge Railway lines which has generated a lot of controversy in the national sphere. And the question remains whether the government should dispense $1.959 billion to construct a railway line through Kano to Maradi located in Niger Republic. At a time the country is confronted with economic downturn, many belief the choice remains a political, and not an economic decision. An online data portal, Dataphyte however weighs in from a data-driven standpoint.

Project Parameters, Historical Relevance & Demography

The Kano-Maradi standard gauge railway line spans about 387 km from Kano to Maradi and a branch line from Kano to Dutse. A breakdown shows first a 287km stretch of track will connect three federal states in Northern Nigeria; namely Kano, Jigawa and Katsina- significant trade hubs- and the Republic of Niger (Maradi). Another 93 km branch line will connect the capital of Jigawa’s State (Dutse) to Kano.

The rail line will cover 12 stations: Dutse, Gaya, Wudil Kano, Dambatta, Kazaure, Daura, Shargale, Marshi, Katsina, Jibia, Maradi in the Southern Niger republic.

Meanwhile, Kano stands with an estimated population of 13.4 million. With the Kano-Maradi line project, Jigawa’s additional 4.3 million inhabitants and Katsina estimated populace of 6 million, a total of 23.7 million Nigerians should be (directly or indirectly) influenced economically in the project.

Moreover, Kano stands as the oldest city in West Africa revered for its Trans-Saharan trade route. As such, reviving trade therein through the establishment of a viable transport system is important. A significance that not only transcends sentimental value but also has a direct impact on millions of Nigerians.

Commercial Activities & Implications for GDP

Kano State remains the hub of commercial activity in the north. The state has the largest food market in West Africa, Dawanau market, and Kantin Kwari, one of Africa’s largest textile markets. Similarly, Wudil Market is one of the largest livestock markets in Kano. And Kazaure town in Jigawa and Daura in Katsina house a major peanut trade.

However, market accessibility has hampered the effectiveness of Dawanau and similar ventures over the years due to poor transport infrastructure. And thus hindered the potential of the market and its impact on the economy. Even so, the improvement of transport infrastructure through the construction of the Kano-Maradi Rail Line will open the market to the rest of the world.

A rail-line from Kano to Maradi means traders from Katsina who come to Kano and those who go to Katsina from Kano will have an easy route. The same goes for traders from Katsina Maradi and Maradi to Katsina. The rail-line also tends to expand the market to other Niger states and North African Countries.

Each of the 12 stations in the Kano-Maradi rail route further presents an improved market front for transactions. The availability of an easy transportation mode in these focal markets will attract merchants from considerable distances and surrounding areas.  Thanks to their links with a host of periodic markets, each covering a vast radius of several hundred sq km and forming supply centres and import-export hubs.

Moreover, Kano boasts an annual output of at least 4 million metric tons (109,589 bags of grain weighing 100kg). With the state having the largest concentration of agro-allied processing firms in Nigeria, the railway becomes a strategic infrastructural need to connect Kano as an export route for Nigerian products to the rest of the world.

Undoubtedly, the corollary effect of boosted trade becomes the furtherance of a nation’s GDP.

Value for Money & Attaining SDGs 1-3

In the same vein, Dataphyte’s analysis shows that Nigeria could recoup her $2 billion investment on the Kano-Maradi Rail line in a couple of years.

Already we established that Kano is a hub for commercial activities. To that end, infrastructural expansion could see a swift return on investment. Looking at Dawanau for instance, the market boasts an annual trade volume of $2.5 billion despite the prevailing challenges. Hence, the rail route will impact the volume of sales with a potential increase in yearly transactions.

Another significant impact is the development potential of the train route. The rail will pass through three northern states – Kano, Jigawa and Katsina, and as a result, revive and initiate economic activities along the way. A corollary effect then becomes the provision of infrastructural facilities to accommodate the upsurge of economic activities in these states.

Similarly, this could, in turn, see an improvement to the living standards of residents in these regions, simultaneously ticking SDG goals of 1 to 3. How? The upsurge of economic activities will lead to creating employment opportunities along the route; consequently alleviating impoverishment in a region with a poverty headcount of 55.08%, 87.02% and 56.42% for Kano, Jigawa and Katsina respectively.

Kano-Maradi Line Answers Some Security Challenges

Interestingly, establishing the Kano-Maradi railway plugs some insecurity holes, albeit creating new ones. Appraising the routes, Dataphyte noted some insecurity hotspots along the line, using data from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project.

Information gleaned from a two-decade review, showed that 868 civilians who tread these routes met unfortunate situations with assailants. Chief amongst which are the Jihadist group Boko-Haram group. Thus, seeing that most users of these routes are traders, establishing a railway route devoid of breakdowns or limitations of the automobile, in reality, solves this challenge. As such, merchants and traders alike would be able to peddle their goods unperturbed.

Notwithstanding, the issue of the mode of attack is still concerning. Data from ACLED highlights bombs and explosives as the go-to for the notorious Boko Haram, who happen to be the most frequent perpetrators of violence in these parts.

Hence, while the rail route eliminates possible threats on traders by bandits, it calls for a more robust security strategy for the new service Chiefs. The government’s first steps would be to review and immediately activate the 2019 national security policy.

Kano-Maradi Line: A Significant Piece of the Trade Puzzle

In all, the Kano-Maradi rail line, rather than being political, could be a significant piece required to turn Nigeria into an import and export hub for Sahel-Saharan nations like Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad, and Sudan.

Other projects that either exist or, when completed, form part of the network for Nigeria’s import & export to Sahel-Saharan nations are; the Lagos-Kano rail line, the Kaduna dry port, and the Port Baro on River Niger.

Already, FG completed two segments of the Lagos-Kano rail. The Lagos-Kano line’s completed components include Abuja to Kaduna (187km), Lagos-Ibadan(156km). Now with the construction of the Kano-Maradi rail line, the northern region, Niger, and other Sahel Saharan countries will benefit from the prospect of routing their import and export through the Lagos- Kano rail line to the Lagos port.

Besides the rail line, the federal government should invest immensely in developing processing and storage infrastructure for the raw materials obtained in these trade routes, furthering the region’s industrialisation. Only then can the FG effectively implement its planned protectionist policy for the sustainability of indigenous products.

Furthermore, the 12 train stations along the route provide employment opportunities for an estimated 1000 Nigerians. Not to mention the numerous persons that will be employed indirectly as a result of its construction. Again, it will boost commercial agriculture in the region and thus ensure food sustainability for Nigeria.

In the Kano-Maradi rail line, political and economic goals can be jointly achieved.

On the political side, the Kano-Maradi rail line project will fast track the realisation of development goals in the region. On the economic side, this huge transport infrastructure will open up new entrepreneurial initiatives along the route, boost aggregate trade volume, and reduce unemployment and poverty. These prospective political and economic gains will serve as a disincentive for crime and reduce the level of insecurity in the region.

Transnational Railway Lines

Chief Executive Officer of African Railway Consortium (AFRECO), Mr. Olawale Rasheed, says Nigeria needs more transnational railway lines to sustain and expand its economic influence within Africa.

Rasheed, who hailed the commencement of Kano-Maradi railway project, called for the initiation of Maiduguri-Ndjamena railway line, the launching of ECOWAS trans-west African Railway from Lagos to Abidjan and a line from Cross River to Cameroon.

Speaking on Radio Nigeria Network News on Tuesday afternoon, the AFRECO boss said: “The transnational project is needed to expand Nigeria’s economic reach and influence as the biggest economy in Africa within the context of the African Continental Free Trade Area.”

According to Rasheed, “The project will open up a densely populated areas of both Nigeria and Niger republic to an expanded economic relationship, serving interest of Nigerian exporters and drawing Niger closer into Nigeria’ orbit of influence. Nigeria supplies almost two third of Niger’s cereals needs, a trade that will get more boosted and more formalised.

Revival of Kanu as Industrial Hub

“Expanded trading will alleviate poverty and create new opportunities. Corridor development along the route will engender rural development, boost rural economy and move many citizens into the railway economy. That project will speed up the revival of Kano as the industrial hub of the North.

“Just as the new Ibadan – Lagos Railway is promising to expand and integrate two major industrial centres of South West, the Kano-Maradi line will provide ready markets for budding exporters in Kano and other areas. It will particularly energise the Kano Export Processing Zone which has several companies producing many industrial products.

“For Niger Republic, it is a dream come true due to historic ethnic and religious affiliation between the two countries. Just like the ethnic bond between Nigeria and Benin Republic, the rail project promises to change internal economic dynamics of Niger Republic. Nigerien imports may be redirected to Nigerian ports especially with the strong presence of Bollore logistics in Lagos,” the AFRECO boss said.

He called on the Federal Government to persist in its expansive railway development agenda, calling on the administration to act even more boldly by rolling out a private sector oriented fast train between North and South, to hand over interstate link rail lines to private sector.

“Let’s design a rail agenda between Cross River and Cameroon, between Maiduguri and Ndjamena, between Oyo and Benin Republic and let spearhead the making of a trans-west African Railway between Lagos and Abidjan. Private Sector framework can realise all these,” the AFRECO chief concluded.


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