After the meeting between Henri Konan Bédié and Laurent Gbagbo at the end of July in Brussels, these new allies' two parties held their first joint rally in Abidjan on Saturday, one year before the presidential elections.
BENIN | ABDOULAYE BIO TCHANÉ: “300 MW of additional production capacity by 2019”
Energy is one of the most important parameters for investors. What do you tell them about the problems Benin has experienced with this sector?It is true that lack of energy is an obstacle to development in many African countries and Benin was no exception. In 2014, a study even showed that energy was amongst the main obstacles faced by entrepreneurs in our country. Companies paid a high price for their electricity because they used generators, making them less competitive because it brought their production costs up. That’s why, in 2016, one of the first objectives of the government, which I’m part of, was to reduce this energy bill. Our short-term goal was to first stop load shedding, which deprives people of electricity for several hours a day. We have done this in the big cities by renting standby generators and increasing imports. In the medium term, we are rehabilitating the Maria Gleta and Adjarala power plants. Several projects funded by the Millennium Challenge Account Benin II will also help to increase production in some towns. In the longer term, our goal is to produce enough energy to supply the whole country and meet the needs of businesses and households. To do this, we will have at least 300 MW of additional capacity available by 2019.
Through which projects?
Last October, the government signed the contract for the construction of a 120 MW thermal power plant at Maria Gleta, financed by the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) with the West African Development Bank (BOAD) and the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development (EBID) as co-financiers. This is a national power plant which will be built by a Danish company. It is a significant project because it is the first IPP of this capacity and several others are under discussion. We will also improve our distribution because, currently, 60% of electricity is lost before reaching the end user. We also aim to increase the share of renewable in our energy mix. This includes the construction of photovoltaic farms with a total capacity of 95 MW.
How have the roads been improved?
We are making a major effort to upgrade the main roads, including sub-regional roads, since our country is a natural corridor between several WAEMU and ECOWAS countries. We will especially boost finances for our long-neglected rural roads. Of the 9,039 billion CFA franc GAP budget, 1,839 CFA francs is earmarked for transport infrastructure. I can also say that the Glo-Djigbé airport project, for which we have been waiting almost twenty years, will start in 2018. We are now in the final stages of preparation and we already have the successful bidder.
Benin is expecting 61% of the GAP investments to come from the private sector. Is this the first time the country has such an ambition?
Yes, these are nothing like Benin’s previous development programmes. One question guides us in each sector of activity: is there not a private entrepreneur capable of doing this? For example, we want to develop four new agricultural business lines – pineapple, cashew, maize and rice. Private companies are going to be involved in the production and processing. But the State will also fulfil its mission in terms of supervising producers, seed inputs and the construction of rural roads. This 61% investment is higher than what we have sought in the past, but it is in line with our GAP ambition: to make room for the private sector wherever possible. This is why, from 2018, we will outsource the management of the Port of Cotonou to the private sector, to improve its infrastructure and make it one of the most competitive ports in the region.
From the June 2018 supplement to The Africa Report, INVESTING BENIN