Beninese President Thomas Yayi Boni urged Qatari businessmen to invest in various projects in Benin, but specifically opportunities in resource development and a potential port development, during a meeting organised by Qatar Chamber on his most recent trip to Doha.
President Boni highlighted the opportunities in sectors ranging from infrastructure and energy to agriculture and education, but emphasised the need to monetise Benin’s natural resources.
“We need Qatar’s investment, expertise and technology to monetise our natural reserves,” Boni said, while noting the improved investment climate in Benin should assure Qatari parties that any interests would be protected and facilities would be made available to make their investments profitable.
A presentation was then delivered on an unspecified $3bn port project aimed at capitalising on the dependence of neighbouring countries such as Niger on Benin’s ports to import merchandise.
Benin has major ports at both Cotonou and Porto Novo, but Cotonou port is larger and more economically significant, and Cotonou, as Benin’s economic capital, is actually built around it.
Cotonou Port handles an annual volume of 155,000 TEUs, including perishable foods, the import of construction materials like gypsum, and the export of cotton, one of the major cash crops, and has exclusive areas set aside for use by the land-locked countries of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.
The proposed project raises the interesting possibility of either offshore development at Cotonou; a major redevelopment of the existing infrastructure; or for the creation of an entirely new port development.
Benin is also working on an ambitious coastline development projects to attract tourists from across the world, and in the health sector, a $140m hospital project is also under consideration for potential bilateral funding.
Leading the Qatari side, Qatar Chamber Vice-Chairman Mohammed bin Ahmed bin Towar al Kuwari expressed the eagerness of Qatar to explore the Beninese market for business opportunities – sentiments roundly reciprocated by Benin’s ambassador to Qatar HE Soidu Bako Boukari.