The idea of a trans-Saharan highway was proposed in 1962, with construction of sections in the Sahara starting in the 1970s.

But only now is it nearing reality, thanks to some help from a Chinese firm and the Export-Import Bank of China.

A Chinese engineering firm said it will continue to support the ongoing construction of the trans-Saharan highway within the Nigerian territory, with timely completion of its road project in the central part of the country, China.org.cn reported.

The project is a continental-scale infrastructure that passes through six African countries, namely Algeria, Chad, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, and Tunisia. It has an objective to contribute to the development of commercial exchanges through roads and promote regional integration in Africa.

Handling an important part of the project in Nigeria, the China Harbor Engineering Company (CHEC) said it is paying serious attention to the development for which it is handling the expansion of 5.4 km Abuja-Keffi expressway and dualization of Keffi-Akwanga-Lafia-Makurdi road in central Nigeria.

Speaking to Xinhua on the sidelines of a two-day 70th session of the Trans-Sahara Road Liaison Committee (TRLC), Zhang Wenfeng, the managing director of CHEC in Nigeria, described the ongoing project as one that would “beef up the international connection to all regions in Africa.”

With a contractual construction period of 36 months, 15% of the project funds are raised by the Nigerian government, and 85% are provided by the Export-Import Bank of China, the report said.

“The project will be directly connected to the West African coastal road, west to Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, and so on, through Lagos, and north to Niger; countries such as Algeria through Kano and east to countries such as Cameroon and Chad through Calabar,” Zhang said.

Not only does the project improve the transportation circumstances in Nigeria, but it also assembles a large international interconnection road network among West Africa, Central Africa, and North Africa, substantially enhancing the road conditions within the region, the report said.

Meanwhile, most parts of the trans-Saharan highway project jointly constructed by the six aforementioned African countries have been asphalted so far, accounting for a total of 80% of the entire project, a Nigerian official said on Monday.

At the opening of the TRLC session, which is overseeing the progress of the project, Babatunde Fashola, Nigeria’s works and housing minister, said “it is very useful for every African to be aware of the existence of a trans-African highway plan which seeks to connect the whole of Africa right from Cape Town up to Tunisia, either by driving through the East African border, or the West African border or through the center of Africa.”

According to the minister, with a total of 9 highways at different stages of connection, the road connects 74 urban centers and 60 million people across the six countries. The project has a total stretch of 4,500 km on the route linking Algiers in Algeria to Lagos in Nigeria.