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Sierra Leone scraps project for Chinese-built airport

AFP  |  Freetown 

has scrapped a USD 400 million (347-million-euro) scheme for a Chinese-built airport, saying the scheme was too costly.

In a statement released Wednesday, the said that "after serious consideration and due diligence," the government had determined the Mamamah International Airport initiative was "uneconomical".

All contracts under the project are being terminated, it said.

Sierra Leone's previous president, Ernest Bai Koroma, signed a loan agreement with for the airport shortly before elections in March that his party lost.

His successor, Julius Maada Bio, vowed to stop the scheme.

He also lashed Chinese infrastructure projects generally as "a sham" that brought the impoverished west African state scant economic benefit.

The scheme entailed building a new airport around 50 kilometres (30 miles) outside the capital of

It would be completed in 2022 and managed and maintained by the Chinese.

But critics questioned the benefit, given that Freetown's existing airport, Lungi, is operating below capacity.

The government on Wednesday said it was looking into the possibility of building a bridge between and -- a scheme that has been priced at more than $1 billion.

The airport and another major Chinese project, a toll road, shouldered their way into Sierra Leone's in March.

Several candidates declared the schemes were unaffordable and should be scrapped or reviewed.

Bio went furthest, going on record as saying "most of the Chinese infrastructural projects in are a sham with no economic and development benefits to the people." has provided infrastructure and development aid to since the Cold War.

But its interest and presence in the continent have grown exponentially in the past two decades, in parallel with its emergence as a global economic giant.

overtook the in 2009 as Africa's biggest trading partner.

Chinese loans, meanwhile, have soared, especially in transport and

Some analysts have warned of a debt trap as some of the world's poorest states struggle to repay their borrowings.

Between 2000 and 2017, China's government, banks and contractors lent African countries USD 143 billion, according to the China-Research Initiative at in Washington.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Thu, October 11 2018. 02:20 IST
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