Sitting between Nigeria and Togo, Benin stretches over 400 miles from north to south, with a population of almost 10 million. It is a stable democracy and member of the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS).
The Beninese populace, until very recently, has been subject to almost daily mandatory power outages due to domestic energy shortages, reliance on imported electricity for 85 percent of the national needs, and the lack of the nationwide interconnected power infrastructure.
Benin’s President Dr Thomas Boni YAYI, a former head of the West Africa development Bank (WADB) and the current President of the ECOWAS, goal after his election in 2006, and particularly since his re-election in 2011, is to ensure that everyone in Benin has access to electric power, with as much as possible being domestically generated. President YAYI’s strategy has been to leverage private investment, multilateral lending institution financing, government funding, and public-private partnership to greatly increase production capacity and delivery throughout the country.
The Government of Benin has embarked on many large-scale infrastructure projects in the power sector over the past several years, utilization a combination of government and private funding and multilateral loans and grants to finance new or updated infrastructure in order to greatly increase Benin’s domestic power production. Its success thus far has been remarkable, and can be a model to other African countries facing energy and capital shortages.
Private investment has financed the construction of 5MW solar plant in the northern city of Kandi, and in October 2013, President YAYI signed a memorandum of understanding with the Dangote Group for it to invest about $300 million in a 200 MW coal-fired power plant in Benin. In signing the MOU, President YAYI emphasized the importance of the private investment in the Beninese power sector, and Mr. Dangote, the richest man in Africa, noted the excellent investment opportunities in Benin.
Just recently, officials from the United States and Benin have signed a $375-million deal to invest in the African country’s electric power sector. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden joined Benin President Thomas Boni Yayi on Wednesday, 9th September 2015 at the White House as officials signed the five-year Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact. The deal will help fund electricity distribution, off-grid access, oversight and policy reform.
Biden said the deal will encourage economic growth. He adds that “giving people hope is sometimes more consequential than giving them help.” The Millennium Challenge Corporation, a U.S. foreign aid agency, expects 9.8 million people to benefit from the Benin compact over the next 20 years.
The compact advances Power Africa’s goals to increase access to affordable electricity which would help reduce poverty and invest in renewable energy. President Barack Obama launched the program in 2013 to double access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa, where more than 600 million people lack access.