Benin is one of the poorest countries in the world, ranking 163 out of 189 on the UN Human Development Index. The incumbent Talon government has introduced a programme of political and economic reform, aimed at creating a favourable business and investment environment, combating clientelism and corruption, and reforming the government structure. As a result, economic growth in 2019 accelerated to 6.7%, almost 4% per capita. However, Nigeria’s decision to close its border with Benin continues to have a negative impact on Benin’s trade and economic prospects.
Making government policies more inclusive remains a challenge. Gender disparities are high and young people hardly benefit from the economic growth. Likewise, the urban-rural and north-south divides are increasing and the north is vulnerable to radicalisation and extremism.
Aware of these challenges, the Netherlands has aligned its strategy with Benin’s reform agenda. Examples include water, land rights and school feeding programmes. But the Netherlands also promotes change in less prioritised areas. Projects such as strengthening women’s and girls’ rights, youth entrepreneurship and the Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) programme seek to enhance the inclusiveness of Benin’s growth strategy.