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Ease of Doing Business in Benin:  doingbusiness.org/data/exploreeconomies/benin

Ministry of Economy and Finance Web site:   finances.bj

Chamber of Commerce and of Industry Web site: ccibenin.org

Economy: Overview

Delivery of basic services has improved in Benin with more than 81,000 students enrolled in schools constructed or rehabilitated under the project; about 10,000 people with new access to an improved water source and sanitation systems; and another 10,000 people with access to microfinance services. In addition, the project has provided grassroots management training (1,500 communities), which has helped to contribute to the decentralization process and strengthening of both local government and community capacities to better plan and implement development projects.

Challenge

The project was conceived in 2004 to address the poor delivery of basic services, such as access to education, water and sanitation and health care services, and slow implementation of Benin’s decentralization process. Lack of access to basic social services and low use of existing services prior to the project contributed to high illiteracy (68 percent), low utilization of health services (36 percent utilization rate), low access to improved water sources (52 percent of rural households), and limited access to financial services (only 7 percent of the Beninese population had a formal bank account). With regard to decentralization, although the 1999 Decentralization law had given communes responsibility for the preparation and implementation of local development plans and the provision of basic social services and infrastructure, in reality these authorities were unable to fulfill their mandate due to lack of resources and skilled personnel. While Benin had a wide and positive experience with community-based development, this approach had not been integrated into the new decentralization policy.

Approach

In line with the CDD approach, the project supported improved basic infrastructure at the community level by empowering communities to direct resources and improve their living conditions. At the same time, the project is building the capacity of local governments to integrate a community driven development approach in the development and implementation of their local development plans. Furthermore, the project supported the government’s decentralization agenda by helping line ministries (such as education, health, water and sanitation, agriculture, livestock and fisheries) to delegate responsibilities to local governments which will, in turn, delegate some of these responsibilities to communities. Finally, the project supported good governance and accountability through providing technical assistance for capacity building in demand-driven methods at all levels (community and local government), as well as procurement and fiduciary management.

Results

During 2004-2010, 750 communities and 32 communes have completed infrastructure subprojects, resulting in the construction or rehabilitation of 1,629 classrooms, 84 health centers, and 37 water and sanitation systems. Approximately 81,450 students are enrolled in schools constructed or rehabilitated under the project. About 10,000 people have gained access to an improved water source, and another 10,000 people in 409 previously unserved communities have gained access to microfinance services during the same period. About 440,000 people in 1,500 communities have received Grassroots Management Training (GMT) through a cascading training of trainers approach, with 1,804 trainers trained by the project. The GMT consisted of modules on community organization; participatory poverty and needs assessment; participatory planning of subprojects; participatory monitoring and evaluation; community procurement; and financial management for subprojects. The training received was essential in allowing communities to prioritize, plan, execute, and monitor their infrastructure subprojects. The GMT is expected to have a lasting impact on communities' ability to play an active role in their own development. Finally, the CDD approach—which is proven to deliver small-scale infrastructure faster and cost-effectively—

has become increasingly mainstreamed into the government’s decentralized development efforts.

Bank Contribution

IDA support has consisted of US$50 million equivalent approved in July 2004 and an Additional Financing of US$12 million equivalent approved in July 2010. The Additional Financing was provided in order to: (i) allow completion of the original project activities by filling an unanticipated financing gap created by fiscal pressures on the government of Benin arising from the global economic crisis; and (ii) support new technical assistance for the development of Benin’s social safety net system.

Partners

Harmonization and coordination of the project with the programs of donor partners is picking up as the project evolves to become more aligned with the decentralization agenda. The technical assistance on social safety nets supported by the project is being delivered in coordination with the World Food Programme (WFP) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The next phase of the project is expected to be prepared in close collaboration with the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ), the European Union (EU), Belgium, and France, who are actively supporting the government’s fiscal transfer system.

Moving Forward

The project’s approach will be scaled up in its next phase, under the support of a new IDA operation (tentatively called PNDCC 2) in early fiscal year 2012. While continuing to support community-driven investments in basic infrastructure, PNDCC 2 is intended to (i) align the project with Benin's decentralization strategy and donor partners’ support by channeling funds through the nascent intra-governmental fiscal transfer system; and (ii) include a pilot conditional or unconditional cash transfer program to help address the impact of the global financial crisis on Benin.

Beneficiaries

The June 2008 Beneficiary Satisfaction Survey found that 84 percent of beneficiaries expressed satisfaction with the impact of the infrastructure on their community, with only two percent expressing a negative opinion. One community leader felt that the impact of the project went beyond the physical assets that were constructed: “besides the infrastructure that we were able to build with the support of PNDCC, the training that we received was very important and empowering. We feel that the abilities we acquired, and which allowed us to implement our own micro projects, have empowered us to be true actors in our own development.”

Youth employment opportunities

Benin and the World Bank have signed three funding agreements totaling $85 million. The first two agreements seek to accelerate growth and reduce poverty by addressing challenges related to governance and development. The third agreement looks to boost employment by providing 17,500 job opportunities for youth.

Washington, DC April 10, 2014—“We killed two birds with one stone,” exclaimed Jonas Gbian, Minister of Economy and Finance, who signed the documents on behalf of the Beninese Government. “These new operations address key sectors in our country, and the added budget support will enable us to engage in significant poverty-reduction initiatives. The second operation will help us strengthen the capacity of local governance, while the third targets youth employment, a major concern of our government,” he added.

With budget support amounting to $20 million, the first agreement aims to assist with the implementation of the third Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP III), an initiative which intends to accelerate growth by addressing key challenges in the areas of governance, public finance management, and business climate reform.

The second agreement secures an additional credit of $30 million for the Decentralized Community Driven Services Project (PSDCC), a program designed to help poor communities increase their access to decentralized basic social services. This supplemental funding will support the realization of more than 300 infrastructure projects pertaining to education, health, water, and trade at the district and community levels. Every single one of Benin’s 77 districts will benefit from this project.

Over 17,000 job opportunities for Beninese youth

The third and highest funding agreement, totaling $35 million, targets youth employment issues in Benin. “Young people account for 65% of Benin’s population, with unemployment and underemployment affecting a significant portion of this demographic. Benin’s development therefore hinges on the resolution of the youth employment issue. To that end, Benin has designed a youth employment strategy plan which is effective through 2016,” explained Mr. Gbian.

Under the Youth Employment Project (PEJ), more than 17,000 Beninese youth will have the opportunity to develop their skills through apprenticeships or other types of technical training. The project will also help young people gain access to funding to finance their start-up or business. The PEJ is nationwide and will focus particularly on agro-processing, artisanal trade, and tourism.

Ousmane Diagana, the World Bank country director for Benin, commended the hard work of all those involved in bringing these three agreements to fruition. Mr. Diagana is confident that these new operations will not be hindered by red tape stemming from either the Bank or the Beninese Government.

“Our hope is that these operations will be executed in a timely manner in order to achieve the outcomes we all expect for the well-being of the Beninese people,” he noted.

Young people account for 65 percent of Benin’s population, with unemployment and underemployment affecting a significant portion of this demographic. Benin’s development therefore hinges on the resolution of the youth employment issue

Jonas Gbian,
Minister of Economy and Finance in Benin

Transportation

The geographic setting of Benin serves to integrate the region and provides direct access to the bordering states by water, rail, airlines and railways.

5-seaters ply between Cotonou and Lome, Cotonou and Lagos to name the nearest other capital cities while buses and lorries are available for such long distance trips as Cotonou-Parakou, Parakou-Kandi, Parakou-Malanville, Parakou- Djougou .

Roads: 8,000 kilometers will 1,000 km or bitumenized roads

Railways: 570 kilometers in joint venture with the Republic of NIGER.

Airport: Main airport is in Cotonou with many foreign air companies.

Port: International harbor with modern facilities in Cotonou.

Telecommunications: Infrastructures are performing more than 6,000 lines with direct contact with the external world.

There is a full range of postal services in most towns and localities. Telex and Fax facilities are available in Cotonou.

Public Holidays:

January 1: New Year's Day                Easter Monday

Ascension Day                                      May 1: May Day

Whitmonday                                         August 1: National Day

August 15: Assumption Day              November 1: All Saints' Day

December 25: Christmas Day           Ramadan

Ad-el-FlTR                                            Maouloud

The details regarding Muslim Holidays are but approximative since they are observed following the sightings of the moon.

Banks

Central Bank of West Africa P.O. Box 325 Cotonou

Bank of Africa

Financial Bank

International Bank of Benin (B.I.B.)

The currency is the CFA franc divided into 100 centimes; the parity with the French franc is fixed:

1 FF = 50 CFA francs.

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Saturday: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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Monday through Friday:
8:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and
3:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

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