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FEATURE STORY

Regional Integration: Benin Receives US$75 Million to Facilitate Trade and Improve its Road Infrastructure

April 8, 2010


On Thursday, April 8, 2010, the Government of Benin and the World Bank signed a Financing Agreement in Cotonou for the Abidjan-Lagos Transport and Transit Facilitation Project (ALTTFP). The signing ceremony follows the approval by the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors on March 23, 2010, of a total of US$228 million (approximately CFAF 114 billion) to support the implementation of the first phase of the program covering Ghana, Togo, and Benin.

Generally speaking, the objective of ALTTFP is to reduce trade and transport barriers on the roads along the Abidjan-Lagos corridor. Its total cost is estimated at US$ 340 million for the group of five countries of the corridor, namely Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, and Togo. 

In the specific case of Benin, which has just received a credit of US$75 million (more than CFAF 35 billion) under the new program, the project seeks to:

  • Facilitate trade, through: (i) collection and sharing of relevant information and data between customs administrations along the corridor; (ii) establishment of a single window in the port of Cotonou to facilitate the efficient and rapid processing of all transactions; and (iii) simplification of customs procedures and preparation of manuals to streamline their implementation;
  • Improve the corridor’s road infrastructure, through the rehabilitation of the section of the road between Godomey and Pahou by widening it to two lanes in each direction; and
  • Follow up HIV/AIDS programs: by formulating and executing programs to reduce the impact and spread of HIV/AIDS in communities established or operating along the part of the corridor in Beninese territory. 

The ALTTFP framework fits in perfectly with the Beninese Government’s efforts to improve the country’s integration in the regional context, as noted by the Beninese Minister of the Economy and Finance, Idriss Daouda, in his address during the signing ceremony for the Financing Agreement: “The activities envisaged under this regional Project complement major national projects currently under way in the country.” He assured the audience that “the Abidjan - Lagos Transport and Transit Facilitation Project will not be developed in isolation, but rather in synergy with other projects aimed at the same objectives.”

The World Bank representative, Joseph Baah-Dwomoh, for his part, stressed the need for all beneficiary countries to strive to ensure the success of the program at the regional level, saying, “Moreover, given the regional nature of this program, it is obvious that, by taking steps towards facilitation, simplification, and transparency, each country will benefit from the same measures being taken by its neighbors. Therefore, the performance of the corridor will depend on the performance of each country.”

Lastly, Mr. Baah-Dwomoh recalled the commitments made by the Governments of the corridor to remove the obstacles to regional integration: “I should like to end my address by reminding you that, in order to eliminate the negative impact of the current obstacles on the facilitation of trade and transport, the Governments of the countries of the corridor have agreed to take the necessary steps to lower the prices of transport by reducing, among other things, the amount of time required to cross borders and the length of time merchandise is held in ports; and also by limiting the number of roadblocks, which encourage extortion, and improving road infrastructure along the corridor. The fulfillment of these commitments will determine the success of the Abidjan-Lagos Transport and Transit Facilitation Project.”

General information on the Abidjan-Lagos corridor

The 998.8 km-long Abidjan-Lagos corridor links some of the largest and most economically dynamic capitals in Africa (Abidjan, Accra, Lomé, Cotonou, and Lagos) and serves a population of more than 35 million inhabitants. The number of persons and goods traveling on several main roads along this corridor constitutes the heaviest traffic in all of Central and West Africa, with up to 10,000 people and several thousand vehicles crossing the borders each day. The potential for the Abidjan-Lagos corridor to become a catalyst for economic growth and regional integration in West Africa is well known, and the Governments of the five countries intend to do their utmost to exploit that potential in order to promote greater socioeconomic development in the subregion.

Improving the efficiency of the Abidjan-Lagos corridor could have a positive impact on both exports and imports in the subregion. The additional volume of imports would benefit local consumers (including local enterprises that depend on inputs from abroad), if the consumer surplus is increased. The rise in the volume of exports would be helpful to local producers if market openings are created.

In general, the key results expected from the Abidjan-Lagos Transport and Transit Facilitation Project are as follows: (i) higher quality transport at lower prices; (ii) reduced costs for shippers, which will enhance competitiveness between transport companies and hence promote better service; (iii) an expansion of trade; (iv) a reduction in transit time, resulting in lower costs; and (v) integration of local enterprises with international supply chains.

For the implementation of the ALTTFP, each beneficiary country will execute its own components at the national level, through mechanisms agreed at the ministerial level, including national coordinators and focal points. Supervision of the performance of the corridor as a whole will be provided by the Abidjan-Lagos Corridor Organization (ALCO), in accordance with the Accra protocol agreement of September 2007, signed by the five countries and ECOWAS, and with the agreement of July 2008 between ECOWAS and ALCO, by which ALCO was designated as the management agency of the corridor for ECOWAS. In this context, ALCO is responsible for developing and implementing an information system that will record and supply information on the implementation and follow-up of the ALTTFP. It is also in charge of executing the regional HIV/AIDS segment of the program, which targets the most vulnerable population groups along the corridor, and thus pursuing the successful series of measures of the HIV/AIDS Project for the Abidjan-Lagos Corridor financed by the World Bank until 2007, which has continued its activities with funding from the Global Fund.

The period of execution of the ALTTFP will be from 2010 to 2016.

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