Cooperation between Belgium and Benin goes back to the 70s. Later, Benin was listed as a partner country, and a first meeting of the Belgian-Beninese Joint Commission was held in December 1998.
Along with Danish, Dutch and German cooperation, Belgium is among the main European donors of Benin. Belgian cooperation covers four ‘departments’, which are considered the poorest of Benin, namely: Atacora, Donga (in the north-west of the country), Mono and Couffo (in the south-west of the country). It currently focuses on agriculture, health and decentralisation.
The poverty and human development indicators of Benin are cause for concern. In monetary terms, poverty has increased; it affected 37.4% of population in 2006, compared to 28.5% in 2002. The potential for economic growth in Benin largely depends on agriculture, which today stands for 36% of GDP and 88% of export income, and employs 75% of the active population.
However, agriculture remains strongly dominated by the cotton crop, which represents about 80% of exports from Benin. That is why the Belgian-Benin cooperation in agriculture focuses on diversification and intensification of the agricultural value chains, such as rice and market produce. These efforts must contribute to feeding a growing population and enable the agricultural producers to increase their revenue.
On top of poverty there is a relative stagnation of health indicators in Benin. As an example, the maternal mortality rate for 2009 increased in comparison to 2001 (397 for every 100,000 births). The current situation is especially due to an inadequate supply and a very weak attendance rate of sanitary services (39% in the public sector). That is why the programme of Belgian cooperation in the health sector in Benin, aims at improving access and the quality of healthcare services by supporting healthcare providers and through activities that strengthen the capacities of populations in negotiations with these providers.
Finally, the consolidation of the deconcentration and decentralisation process is present in Belgian-Benin cooperation. BTC intervenes in this process by supporting the implementation of development plans of the municipalities in the concentration departments. This is done through municipal investment budget subsidies and capacity development of the municipalities and their partners (prefectures and associations of municipalities). Moreover, BTC supplies permanent consultancy support to the municipalities, namely a regular coaching that helps in improving contracting and local good governance, in order to come to a harmonious local development.