Benin – a small, French-speaking, west African nation that borders Nigeria – is looking to attract foreign investment with its recently launched “Revealing Benin” programme. The aim is to transform the country’s economy through public-private partnership investments totalling €13.78bn (US$14.42bn) – the largest in its history. Sixty-one percent of this is expected to come from foreign and national private investors, with the government contributing the remaining 39%.
To assist in showcasing some of the country’s strengths and investment opportunities to international investors, the Benin government has hired the London-headquartered political consultancy and public relations agency, Portland Communications. The agency was founded by a former adviser to Tony Blair, and has experience working for different governments globally.
Some of the strengths Benin hopes to publicise are its geostrategic position (the country is situated in the Gulf of Guinea with access to the Atlantic Ocean), its agricultural opportunities and its untapped tourism potential. The country is looking to set itself apart from west African heavyweights like Ghana and Nigeria, both of which have been major destinations for foreign direct investment (FDI) regionally. For instance, FDI flows into Benin in 2014 totalled an estimated $377m, compared to $4.9bn in Nigeria for the same year.
“Benin benefits from several strong but under-exploited assets, and the objective of the programme is to make more value out of them,” says Benin’s minister of foreign affairs and cooperation, Aurelien Agbenonci.
According to Agbenonci, the country’s infrastructure deficit also offers investment opportunities.
“The country’s need for infrastructure – such as new energy sources, nearly 200km of new roads, a national water supply network, and optic fibre coverage – offer unchartered territory for investors,” he says.