WASHINGTON, March 25, 2010—The World Bank Board of Executive Directors today approved a US$15 million (approximately CFAF 7.5 billion) grant to help Benin improve its Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector. This is a technical assistance grant that will cover the period between July 2010 and June 2015.
The new project, called "e-Benin,” proposes an integrated approach to development of the ICT sector, and takes into account its main dimensions— the promotion of access to ICTs, enabling applications and e-business, and support to the IT industry.
Through its first component, which aims to create an environment conducive to improved access to ICTs and for which US$6.2 million (approximately CFAF 3 billion) are allocated, e-Benin will support efforts by the Government of Benin to implement a legal, regulatory and institutional framework that can effectively promote greater competition in the sector. This will not translate into a direct investment in infrastructure, but will rather strengthen the capacity of the regulator to provide technical assistance to the ministry in charge of the sector to help improve service quality and reduce costs of access to broadband internet services.
The main activities selected under this component include: (i) the implementation of the new sectoral framework, centered on the adoption of secondary legislation and key regulatory instruments; (ii) supporting the establishment of the Regulatory Authority for Electronic Communications and Postal Service (Benin-ARGEP), followed by an enhancement of its technical and human capacity; (iii) strengthening capacity for decision making to ensure further growth and development of the sector; (iv) supporting policies and regulations that promote broadband connectivity and affordability, including tools to ensure open access to terrestrial and submarine cables; and (vi) support for policies, strategies and regulations to promote wider access to ICT services, including the ability to use the postal network as an electronic gateway.
The project’s second component focuses on promoting electronic applications and the adoption of e-business (US$ 7 million, about FCFA 3 billion). It will support the creation of a legal framework and enterprise architecture, and interoperability standards for e-government applications. Using enterprise architecture is very important for the coordination of investments across various state entities and to avoid duplication. In this context, the project will help build capacity within government to adopt enterprise architecture methodologies in the design and execution of all applications and e-government programs. Since this is a new concept in Benin, the approach will be gradual, starting with small initiatives that provide tangible results. It is hoped that this will ultimately be used to improve public service delivery.
E-business will also support the development of more skills in the ICT field, and help create new business opportunities for local companies. The project will thus promote the growth of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that are already operating, supporting innovative applications, including mobile telephony, through a grant program based on a competitive selection process. Startups will also be promoted through an approach of "incubators" that will provide a critical mass of small ICT companies with reliable and affordable access to the Internet.
Finally, e-business will finance capacity building at the Agency for the Management of New Technologies of Information and Communication (AGeNTIC) for the implementation of an e-business agenda.
Upon project approval, the World Bank Country Director for Benin, Madani Tall, congratulated the Government Benin for positioning the reform of the telecom sector, and improved access to ICTs, at the center of its development agenda. This is evidenced by the conceptualization of a sector strategy in 2008, and its inclusion in the Benin’s Poverty Reduction and Growth Strategy.
“A better environment for the ICT sector should encourage private investment and promote a greater role for the private sector,” Tall said. “In addition, the proposed project will strengthen the capacity of SMEs to incorporate ICT into their activities through e-applications, training programs and business incubation.”
Tall added that a more efficient and more functional ICT sector will play a key role in achieving the country’s objectives for diversified economic growth, greater competitiveness and greater transparency and accountability of the public sector. “I sincerely hope that Benin will benefit from this new project, which should lead to further development and strengthening of the ICT sector for the benefit of all,” Tall said.