Is Ghana-Togo railway real?
One news headline which caught my fancy in the last weeks of last year and triggered a serious heartbeat of excitement on my chest was the one on the inauguration of an international railway line linking Ghana and neighbouring Togo.
I was attracted to the headline; something to the effect that two presidents -- John Dramani Mahama and his visiting guest, Faure Gnassingbe -- had jointly inaugurated a railway line linking their respective countries. This was when President Gnassingbe visited Ghana in late November 2014 or so.
Road links are a rarity
The news was exciting because we are in a geographical region where even road links between neighbouring countries are a rarity. In fact, apart from complex and oppressive tariff regimes, political feet-dragging and corrupt border officials, one other serious factor militating against INTRA-ECOWAS trade is bad roads or lack of them.
A railway link between Ghana and its eastern neighbour is, therefore, not only going to cement the historical bond between the two countries by way of easy movement of goods and people but by all intents and purposes is also going to deliver economic boom for the two countries.
I started to imagine a pleasant and comfortable trip on a luxury fast train between Accra on the Ghana side and Lome, the capital of Togo.
I was, however, surprised that such a mighty project of international dimensions never received the necessary publicity it genuinely deserved right from the conceptualisation to the execution and completion stages.
Elaborate sod-cutting ceremonies
I was surprised the more because we live in a world where even small projects are magnified with elaborate sod-cutting ceremonies even if lack of funds or other unforeseen factors stall these projects later, some at their very embryonic stages.
Immediately, my mind went to the Jamestown-Paga railway system former President John Agyekum Kufuor promised, which never left the drawing board before the end of his term.
That project, if it had been executed to the ultimate stage as envisaged, would have, no doubt, transformed the economies of Ghana and the landlocked countries of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. It would have necessitated the expansion of facilities at the Tema Port and, for that matter, more employment opportunities and engender a booming trade between Ghana and its northern neighbours.
Why such an obvious development strategy had never occurred to African leaders in general and those of the ECOWAS sub-region till now remains one of the mysteries the colonialists may have to come to unravel for us.
Here we are with this screaming headline that two presidents have inaugurated a railway line between two neighbouring countries. I could not wait to read the story and to find out how this miracle was performed.
As I read further, the deception or is it the mischief of the headline dawned on me. There is no railway line that would connect Ghanaians to their Togolese brothers and sisters as the impression created in that story seemed to portray.
What the two leaders went to inaugurate was a private three-kilometre railway constructed by Diamond Cement, which is largely based in Togo, from Lome Port to their factory at Aflao on the Ghana side to facilitate its cement business.
My joy was shortlived and I believe so was that of others who shared the same joy with me when they first saw the story. I am yet to know the person (s) who engineered this gigantic hoax to rub pepper in our eyes.