Ivory Coast began construction on Tuesday of a four-year, 560 billion CFA franc ($962 million) project to build a second container terminal and widen the canal leading to its main port in the commercial capital Abidjan.

Among the busiest in sub-Saharan Africa, the port serves Ivory Coast, French-speaking West Africa's largest economy and the world's top cocoa producer, and is also a gateway for landlocked nations to the north.

China Harbour Engineering Co Ltd was awarded the construction contracts for both projects with the bulk of the cost covered by a loan from China's Eximbank.

Construction of the new container terminal, which will be managed by consortium led by France's Bollore, will last 48 months and cost 409 billion euros ($461 billion).

It is expected to allow Abidjan to increase container traffic from 1.2 million TEU to 3 million TEU by 2020.

The upgrades to the canal linking the port to the Atlantic Ocean will be completed in 36 months at a cost of 151 billion CFA francs.

($1 = 582.1900 CFA francs)

($1 = 0.8875 euros)