BENIN | A tourism destination in the making
The bulldozers have resumed their activity in the coastal districts of western Cotonou, where La Route des Pêches (the Fishing Route) starts. This sandy track that stretches for about 40 kilometres from Cotonou to Ouidah, between sea and mangrove, is going to be partially tarred “to promote tourism development and strengthen the national and regional economy”, as explained in the Government Action Programme (GAP). La Route des Pêches is also the name given to an ambitious seaside development programme, launched a few years ago, for the construction of tens of thousands of hotel rooms and luxury residences, estimated at more than 1 trillion CFA francs. In light of this programme, the government began construction of the first phase of the road, the 12.5 km stretch between Cotonou and Adounko. These roadworks were made possible because of the BOAD (West African Development Bank) providing 12 billion CFA francs (€18 million) of the total cost of 13.6 billion CFA francs (€20.4 million).
Hotel groups express interest
The new government has made some extensive changes to this programme while retaining the work on the first phase of the road between Cotonou and Adounko. It also approved and gave the go-ahead on a second phase of the project in March between Adounko and La Porte du Non-retour (the Door of No Return), in Ouidah. With the exception of the 18 km Avlékété district, declared a seaside site and preserved from all tarred roads, this stretch will total 35.75 km. The project will be financed by Exim Bank of China for an amount of 134.2 billion CFA francs. As part of the GAP, four kilometres of submerged dikes will be built in the Avlékété district in Ouidah, to disperse the waves and make the sea safer for swimming. Hotels and lodges will be built on this part of the coast. Several hotel chains have expressed their interest in building hotel and tourist complexes.
Ouidah, a historical city worth visiting
The biggest tourism development project on the coast is Ouidah, which will be showcased as part of a cultural and memorial journey that begins in Abomey. The project aims to “identically recreate” this historical city. Considered as the cultural capital of Benin and the mecca of the voodoo cult, it is also important to the duty of memory of the slave trade. The city played a central role as a port in the 17th- to 19th-century Atlantic slave trade, and is home to the Door of No Return. The Portuguese and French forts of the old town will have to be rebuilt and the services improved (bus station, handicrafts village, walkways, etc.). The project includes building a replica of a slave ship which will be anchored off the coast of Ouidah. Out of the seven tourism projects included in the GAP, this one, at an estimated $300 million, is the most costly and is being financed by the World Bank.
Seven major tourism projects
The Government Action Programme (GAP) provides for seven major tourism projects. Besides the Ouidah and Atlantic Coast developments, the other five are:
➡ Pendjari National Park
➡ Ganvié lakeside town
➡ Abomey-Agongointo Cultural Centre
➡ Toussaint Louverture Slave Museum in Allada
➡ Porto Novo International Museum of Voodoo/Orisha Arts and Civilisations
All seven of these projects will be developed through public-private partnership
A sustainable tourism project for Pendjari Park
In March 2017, the Presidency of Benin signed a 10-year partnership agreement with African Parks for them to take over management of Pendjari Park, one of West Africa’s last intact ecosystems. As specialists in the long-term management of protected natural reserves, this NGO will invest $26 million, funded by the State of Benin, in the rehabilitation and protection – especially against poaching – of the park, which is one of West Africa’s richest wildlife reserves, (elephant, buffalo, lion, cheetah, and antelope, etc.). African Parks, which manages 11 national parks and protected areas in eight African countries, is committed to doubling wildlife populations in Pendjari Park in 10 years and aims to increase the number of visitors from 6,000 to 9,000. In January 2018, an unprecedented agreement was signed between African Parks, National Geographic, the Government of Benin and the Wyss Foundation to invest $23.4 million for securing and rehabilitating Pendjari Park
From the June 2018 supplement to The Africa Report, INVESTING BENIN