Benin is a West African country with considerable assets. Its geopolitical position makes it key to ground transportation between the landlocked countries of the Sahel and the Atlantic Ocean, as well as with Nigeria. The country has significant agricultural and mining potential, an abundance of water resources and a highly skilled labour force. Civil society and the private sector demonstrate a high degree of initiative.
However, Benin still struggles with social and economic challenges that prevent it from implementing sustainable and inclusive development. Benin ranked 165th out of 187 countries in the 2013 human development index of The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Almost half the population lives on less than US$1.25 per day. Strong demographic growth is impeding poverty reduction, especially in the rural regions.
Benin’s economy is based mainly on subsistence farming, cotton production and the re-export of foreign goods, particularly to neighbouring Nigeria. The economic growth rate has been robust, climbing from 2.6 percent in 2010 to 5.6 percent in 2013, and it was reportedly 5.7 percent in 2014. However, the country’s economy is unstable, primarily because its cotton production is subject to fluctuations in world markets.
Benin has made tremendous progress in democratic governance, particularly with the transparent and peaceful presidential elections held in 2006 and 2011. The government is also stepping up its efforts to reduce corruption, by building the capacity of legal authorities and promoting administrative and institutional reforms. Legislation to fight corruption and other similar offences in the Republic of Benin was passed in August 2011.
Although gender equality is a priority of the Government of Benin and a legislative framework was adopted in 2010, women remain under-represented in government bodies and in the formal sector of the economy. In 2013, the UNDP Gender Inequality Index ranked Benin 134th out of 148 countries. A family code was established in 2004 to improve respect for women’s rights, but those rights are still too often ignored.
Furthermore, Benin is facing some environmental problems: desertification in the northern part of the country and deforestation in the southern part. In 2014, about 44 percent of its people were living in cities, and the urban environment is vulnerable and has deteriorated.
In terms of achieving the Millennium Development Goals, some progress has been made in education, the fight against HIV/AIDS, the under-five mortality rate and access to drinking water. The primary school enrolment rate, which was 95 percent in 2012 according to the World Bank, is exceptionally high compared with other countries in West Africa.
In 2014, Benin was confirmed as a country of focus for the Government of Canada’s international development efforts.
Canada’s international development program in Benin is aligned with the Government of Benin’s Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy for 2011–2015 (PDF, 2.8 MB, 173 pages). The aim of the strategy is to:
- accelerate economic growth
- develop infrastructure
- strengthen human capital
- promote good governance
- foster balanced and sustainable development
The goal of Canada’s international development program in Benin is to help the country stimulate economic growth by supporting the development of a business-friendly market and the development of micro-, small- and medium-sized businesses.
Canada is providing significant support for microfinance activities, helping to stabilize the sector and monitor the institutions more effectively. This effort includes support for young entrepreneurs to obtain financial services and the development of small businesses that create jobs.
Canada will continue its support for administrative reform, with the expectation that streamlined public administration procedures will help create an environment conducive to economic growth in the country.
Benin adheres to the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness (PDF, 35 KB, 23 pages).
In 2010, the country received an average score for the principles of ownership and harmonization. The alignment of donors’ activities with national systems was deemed average or poor. Mutual accountability for achieving results should be strengthened.
Sustainable economic growth
- Helped Benin’s Faîtière des Caisses d’Épargne et de Crédit Agricole Mutuel (FECECAM) increase its membership from 720,600 in 2012 to 786,600 in 2013.
- Enabled FECECAM to increase its volume of savings by 38.3 percent in four years to reach approximately $166 million in 2013.
Sustainable economic growth
- Enabled FECECAM to increase its volume of savings by 23.5 percent to reach approximately $150 million between 2010 and 2012.
- Built the capacities of credit unions. The percentage of credit unions using high-performance computer systems rose from 22 percent in 2010 to 80 percent in 2012. Of 64 credit unions, 90 percent were profitable in 2012, whereas 44 percent were profitable in 2010.
- Helped FECECAM to increase its membership to over 720,000, up by more than 21 percent.
- Enabled the Faitière des Caisses d'Épargne et de Crédit Agricole Mutuel (FÉCÉCAM) increase its membership by 8% since 2009 and its percentage of profitable credit unions from 44% in 2009 to 75%, with a target of 95% by 2016.
- Helped La Faitière des Caisses d'Épargne et de Crédit Agricole Mutuel (FÉCÉCAM) become a microfinance leader in West Africa with a risk portfolio under 4 percent
- Supported a streamlining of the FECECAM network from 64 to 32 credit unions now offering a wide range of services to every community in the country
- Strengthened the capacity of 12 inspectors to fulfill their mandate of monitoring decentralized financial organizations
By working with Canadian and international partners, Canada is working to improve the health and rights of women and children globally, which includes the country of Benin.
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