Benin is one of the least advanced countries (LDCs). Despite an increase in economic growth in 2012 and 2013, economic growth remains insufficient to tackle poverty given a demographic growth rate above 3%, one of the highest in the region. Despite progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in the areas of primary education, access to safe drinking water and the fight against HIV/AIDs, substantial efforts are still needed to fully complete MDGs.
The cooperation strategy between Benin and the European Union (EU) is defined in the National Indicative Programme 2014-2020 as part of the 11th European Development Fund programming. During this period, the EU will support Benin to improve good governance (€184 million), to enhance sustainable development in the agricultural sector (€80 million), to achieve better access to energy (€80 million). The EU will also provide support for civil society (€18 million).
The EU's Country Strategy Paper for Benin (2008-13) and a multi-annual programme set out the areas of cooperation for a €380.37 million assistance allocation under the 10thEuropean Development Fund: governance, local development and infrastructure, notably regional roads. Further, the EU is using general budget support to assist implementation of the government's macroeconomic reform programme.
Reform and decentralisation have been underway since the adoption of a democratic system of government in 1990. Cotton is the main source of income for Benin's population. Agriculture still accounts for more than half of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). A lack of diversification is the main reason for Benin’s economic fragility. The main targets of EU cooperation are: improved governance enhanced local development and improved infrastructure, notably regional road networks.
Other programmes under the 10th EDF aimed to:
- improve competitiveness,
- further social cohesion,
- protect the environment and
- boost civil society.
All EU programmes in Benin also address issues such as gender, the protection of the environment and the building of capacity. These are known as 'cross-cutting' issues since they arise in many sectors.
Since independence in 1960, Benin has received more than €900 million of bi-lateral EU aid under successive EDFs. It also benefits from EDF regional development programmes and allocations from the EU's general budget. The focal areas of the EU's development strategy in Benin have remained largely unchanged since 1995.