Last updated in April 2017
The Federal Republic of Germany has maintained uninterrupted diplomatic relations with Benin since 1960. Since the end of the dictatorship in 1990, bilateral relations have been good, the focus being on development cooperation. There have been a number of high‑level visits in recent years. Federal President Köhler visited Benin in December 2004; Benin’s President Boni Yayi visited Germany in October 2006 and January 2013. The Federal Chancellor’s G8 Personal Representative for Africa, Günter Nooke, visited Benin in February 2011, December 2012 and July 2013. Benin’s Foreign Minister Nassirou Bako‑Arifari was in Berlin in March 2012 and again in May 2014. Former Federal President Köhler paid another visit to Benin in May 2012. The Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Dr Gerd Müller, visited Benin on 2 and 3 January 2016. Sports and Youth Minister Homeky travelled to Bonn and Berlin in June/July 2016 and Planning and Development Minister Bio Tchané visited Berlin in February 2017. In addition, a delegation headed by the Minister of Secondary, Technical and Vocational Training visited Germany in February 2017.
Germany has been engaged in development cooperation with Benin since 1960. Benin is a partner country of German development cooperation, owing mainly to the country’s recent political development into a liberal democracy since 1990. The results of this “democratisation dividend” are not yet sufficient.
Government cooperation is conducted on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) in the framework of joint technical and financial cooperation programmes implemented by GIZ and Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW). The German‑Beninese development programme is highly acclaimed. With the conclusion of the intergovernmental negotiations in Berlin in September 2016, total bilateral commitments since 1960 rose to nearly 900 million euros.
The next intergovernmental negotiations are scheduled to take place in 2019. Cooperation is conducted in line with the development objectives of Benin’s Growth Strategy for Poverty Reduction (Stratégie de Croissance pour la Réduction de la Pauvreté), in which Benin’s Government outlines its development plan for the various sectors. The German‑Beninese cooperation programme agreed in September 2016 for the period 2016 to 2019 is worth some 70 million euros. With additional pledges up to the end of 2016, this sum increases to around 88 million euros. Cooperation focuses on the following three areas:
Decentralisation and local development
Germany supports the national policy to expand local autonomy and local responsibility for social and citizen‑oriented public services and grass‑roots political participation. The idea is also to shift fiscal responsibilities from national to local level.
Drinking water, water management, sanitation and solid waste management
Germany is helping the Beninese Government to improve living conditions for the country’s population by ensuring year‑round access to clean drinking water and preventing disease by improving sanitation.
Food security and agriculture
Given the importance of agriculture in reducing poverty and for Benin’s national product and food security, the Government is being advised on the implementation of the national agricultural strategy. In tandem, the value‑added chains of agricultural products (cotton, shea, cashew nuts, rice, etc.) are being supported in rural areas across Benin, also taking into account climate change, the conservation of natural resources and the increasing involvement of the private sector. The BMZ’s special initiative One World, No Hunger, which was launched in 2015 and in which Benin is a major participant, underlines the importance the two Governments attach to fighting hunger. It has an additional volume of approx. 26 million euros.
Development cooperation also works in the following areas:
In order to increase transparency and efficiency, German experts are providing macroeconomic and financial sector advice to decision‑makers in Benin’s administration as part of technical cooperation. In addition, in the country’s primary education sector, local education authorities are being advised on the comprehensive development of organisational structures aimed at improving the quality of education.
Germany is also helping secure the energy supply of West Africa in general, and Benin in particular, through financial contributions to the West African Power Pool (WAPP) as part of its supraregional engagement. Benin benefits from other transnational German‑funded initiatives concerned with environmental protection, climate change adaptation and the preservation of flora and fauna.
The development cooperation programme is geared to the Paris Declaration objectives of improving the efficiency of development cooperation, of greater donor harmonisation and partner country responsibility. That is why there is structural cooperation with other donors in virtually all programmes. In addition, there is regular coordination on the ground among the donors and with the relevant Beninese ministries. Discussions are held with Benin’s Government on overriding issues such as good governance and fighting corruption with a view to making cooperation more effective.
Since 2008, between 15 and 30 young people have regularly been active in various social projects in Benin under the “weltwärts” volunteer programme. Numerous initiatives of Germany’s civil society, churches, cities and municipalities are engaged in poverty reduction measures in Benin, some with BMZ support.
The German political foundations active in Benin (the Friedrich‑Ebert‑Stiftung, the Hanns Seidel Foundation and the Konrad‑Adenauer‑Stiftung e.V.) are held in high regard on account of their programmes to promote democracy and social policy.
The volume of trade between Germany and Benin is modest. In 2016, Benin’s imports from Germany were worth 43.6 million euros, compared to 77.2 million euros in 2014. Conversely, Benin’s exports to Germany were worth 1.1 million euros in 2016, compared to 8.4 million euros in 2014 (source: Federal Statistical Office export report dated 21 March 2017). Overall, Benin continues to record a negative trade balance with Germany.
Germany’s private sector has a majority holding in the local company CIMBENIN through a Norwegian subsidiary of HeidelbergCement. The Allianz insurance company has been established in Benin via its French branch since 2009. Also, DHL has been operating there since 1984.
In addition to economic cooperation, there are also lively contacts in the cultural sphere. A cultural agreement between Germany and Benin was signed in 1987 and entered into force on 13 May 1988. The Goethe‑Institut in Abidjan is also responsible for Benin; a GI teaching expert in Lomé (Togo) covers Benin too. Deutsche Welle cooperates with Beninese media companies (co‑productions and training programmes). The German Embassy promotes bilateral cultural relations by arranging scholarships and visiting professorships (the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) has a lector and a language assistant working in Benin), by organising German courses, concerts and film screenings, and by donating sports equipment.
Since 2008, the German Embassy has held German Culture Weeks in Cotonou (most recently in March 2014) and Natitingou (most recently in autumn 2012). In addition, Germany occasionally supports Beninese cultural projects. The Honme Museum for History and Ethnography in Porto‑Novo has been restored with German assistance and one of the Royal Palaces of Abomey has been rebuilt with funding from the Cultural Preservation Programme. Both projects are designed to help preserve Benin’s cultural heritage.
Science and research
The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is funding a research programme that also operates in Benin. The WASCAL project (West African Science Service Center on Climate Change and Adapted Land Use) is a BMBF initiative jointly developed by the BMBF, German scientists and researchers and partners from the political and scientific sectors of the participating West African countries. WASCAL builds on networks and structures established between 2000 and 2011 as part of the BMBF‑funded projects GLOWA Impetus and BIOTA West Africa.
Of the approximately 21 million euros approved so far for WASCAL, some 1.5 million euros is being made available to Benin to build a graduate school. The project (preliminary and main phase) runs from 2010 to 2016.
A number of German universities cooperate with the two universities in Benin.