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Building A United Benin

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Read Time: 5 minutes

President Patrice Talon sees unity in his country as the best guarantee for continued success in the development process.

Having been re-elected with 86% of the vote in the first round of the presidential election on 11 April, Patrice Talon was inaugurated on 23 May at the Charles de Gaulle Stadium in Porto-Novo. In his inaugural speech, the Head of State pointed out some of the results achieved during his first term of office, from 2016 to 2021, and called on the Beninese people to unite in response to the challenges of development.

© Tour in the North with the Minister of Energy, Mr HOUSSOU in May 2021

Exceptional results during the first term

For the record, in July 2020, four years into the implementation of the Government Action Programme (PAG 2016-2021), Benin was upgraded from a “low-income” to a “middle-income” country” in the World Bank’s ranking. Its growth is expected to reach 3.8% in 2020, the best rate in the WAEMU, despite the global health crisis and the closure of borders with its Nigerian partner from August 2019 to December 2020.

The areas in which Benin has performed well over the past five years and which have been praised by international financial institutions include the provision of basic infrastructure (water, electricity, roads, etc.), the improvement of living conditions, the reconstruction of Benin’s schools and health system, the improvement of public finances, business environment reform and the rule of law.

These achievements led to a 50% increase in domestic revenue between 2016 and 2019, a reduction in the budget deficit from 5.9% of GDP to just 0.5% and a debt ratio that remains below 50% of GDP, far from the EU standard set at 70%!

Building on these successes

“Now, I see this progress as a try that must be converted over the next five years,” said the president during his inauguration, “and I dare to say that we have achieved a great deal together.” By “converting the try” I mean going as far as possible along the path of development. (…) To do this, we must all believe in our common destiny and work together in a much more harmonious way.

Because, given what we manage to achieve despite our differences, we must convince ourselves that by being more united, we will be able to achieve much more.

From now on, our challenge, our leitmotiv, must be to put aside our quarrels and focus on the essential: to sustain our march towards progress by remaining mobilised and united in our fight against poverty, our real and only enemy.”

Our challenge is to remain united in our fight against poverty, our real and only enemy

A term focused on social issues.

However, a victory against poverty also requires the strengthening of Benin’s democracy.

“Our shared commitment will be to work to strengthen democracy and freedoms, and then to establish good governance in the long term, as a guarantee of the achievement of all our ambitions.

Shouldn’t our other motto therefore be Freedom, Democracy and Good Governance?

This defines the credo that will be mine throughout my term of office; that is, the well-being of everyone, especially the most vulnerable among us. This term of office will be very much devoted to social issues.”

Clear commitments through to 2026

President Talon has set out a number of commitments, some of them quantified, in line with the sectoral results already achieved between 2016 and 2020.

  •  Drinking water

One of the challenges is to “make drinking water available everywhere in Benin by the end of 2023”. In five years, the overall supply rate has already risen from 45% to 70%, while urban centres with a high concentration of people have a permanent supply of drinking water.

  • Access to electricity

The president plans to make Benin self-sufficient in terms of electricity within 30 months. In the space of five years, the country’s electricity production has already risen from practically zero to 60% of domestic needs. The number of electrified districts rose from 1775 in 2015 to 2099 in 2020!

  • Densification of the road network

Densifying the national road network is another of President Talon’s priorities, “so that at the end of the term, all our communities will be connected by tarred roads”. From 2016 to the end of October 2020, work was carried out on more than 2,300 km of roads, more than half of which were new roads.

  •  A more efficient health system

A new investment plan designed to make the health system “more efficient” focuses on modernising technical facilities and increasing the number of staff. The programme initiated in 2016 has already resulted in the equipping of the Allada Hospital, the acquisition of an MRI unit for the Hubert Koutoukou Maga National Teaching Hospital and the start of construction work on the Abomey-Calavi reference hospital, with 500 beds and cutting-edge technology.

  • Education geared to the needs of the economy

President Talon’s programme, which continues from his previous term, aims to make Benin’s schools more compatible with the needs of the economy, particularly by giving priority to technical education and vocational training. “To this end, about a hundred technical high schools and trade schools will be built, more than half of them by the end of 2023. A Digital Trades School has been opened in Cotonou as part of the Semè City structuring project.”


Agriculture

Agriculture has been President Talon’s main lever for economic development and the creation of wealth and jobs in Benin since 2016. By streamlining relations between the private and public sectors, he has succeeded, in just a few months, in making Benin the leading West African producer of seed cotton since the 2018-2019 crop year, with a record harvest of 678,000 tonnes, which is set to rise to 731,000 tonnes in 2020-2021, compared to 270,000 tonnes in 2015-2016. He emphasised both the development of high value-added agricultural sectors and more conventional sectors, with a view to ensuring the country’s food security.

In total, 600 billion CFA francs in public investments were injected between 2016 and 2020, i.e. about 10% of State expenditure, facilitating the creation of over 169,000 jobs. These investments, promised the president during his inauguration, will be ramped up in order to “modernise our agriculture. Thanks to intelligent mechanisation, it will then be more efficient and create more wealth both for its stakeholders and for the country’s economy”.


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