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PRESS RELEASE

With World Bank support, Benin to expand decentralized basic services for poor people and empower communities

May 3, 2012

Project targets 700 poor communities and pilots a new safety net system

WASHINGTON, May 3, 2012 –The World Bank will support Benin’s effort to improve poor people’s access to basic services such as education, health, and water, roads and market infrastructure and mainstream the community-driven development approach for building such infrastructure. The Bank will also provide capacity-building and technical assistance to support Benin’s decentralization reforms and help the country to set up a new social safety net system.

The World Bank’s Executive Board has approved today an International Development Association (IDA) credit of US$46 million for Benin’s Decentralized Community Driven Services Project. Through the new project, this financing will help the Beninese government to strengthen the delivery of basic services at the decentralized level by providing all 77 communes in Benin with greater and more predictable funding for basic service delivery infrastructure. Depending on their level of poverty, each of the communes will receive transfers (averaging about US$160,000 per year) to support multiple development projects. Village or urban neighborhood associations in at least 700 poor communities will play a major role in carrying out these small-scale investment projects.

With the new financing, the government will also pilot a community-driven safety net program comprising a direct cash transfer to targeted poor households and a labor-intensive public works program to provide jobs during the agricultural lean season. The main objective is to increase incomes for poor households over a sustained period and to avoid negative coping decisions which may include selling assets, pulling children out of school and sending children to work. The safety net will target 12,000 poor households in 120 villages during the pilot phase, enabling them to maintain and build their assets and participate in higher-return activities.

Finally, the new project will support capacity-building activities to help strengthen the ability of key ministries, communes, and communities to deliver basic decentralized social services, use the community driven development approach, and test new social accountability mechanisms including community scorecards. Since 2005, over 700,000 people have already participated in grassroots management training as part of the World Bank-supported National Community Driven Development Project, which has just been completed.

“This new World Bank support builds upon the successful implementation of the previous National Community Driven Development Project which has benefited thousands of people, including over 158,000 children who were able to attend primary schools that were built or rehabilitated under the project,” said Madani M. Tall, World Bank Country Director for Benin. “We are also pleased to support the introduction of a pilot social safety net system, which will help poor people to improve their incomes, protect their assets, and invest in the future of their families.”

The new project is fully aligned with Benin’s poverty reduction strategy (2011-2015) which singles out the Community Driven Development approach as a recommended mechanism for promoting participatory local development, and for implementing projects at the local level. It is also aligned with the World Bank’s Country Assistance Strategy for Benin, which seeks to improve access to basic services, promote better governance, and strengthen institutional capacities.

World Bank support to social protection in Africa has been growing both during and after the recent food, fuel, and economic crises. By the end of this year, safety net assessments will have been completed in 20 African countries, including Benin. As in Benin, where the safety net pilot in this project is the result of a Bank-supported analytical program, many governments are already using these assessments to help design and establish national safety net programs. World Bank lending commitments for social protection in Africa have grown from an average of US$260 million a year during fiscal years 2001-05 to US$600 million a year in fiscal years 2006-2010. Commitments in the fiscal year 2012 stand at over US$700 million.

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PRESS RELEASE NO:
2012/426/AFR