Speech

October 10, 2011

As Prepared by

Benin

Remarks of MCC CEO Daniel Yohannes at Benin’s Compact Closeout Gala

Thank you, all, for being here. Thank you for supporting and contributing to the success of Benin’s MCC compact.  Thank you so much for your unforgettable hospitality.

Let me take a moment to talk about the Benin-MCC partnership.

As the CEO of the U.S. Government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation, I am honored to be in Benin to celebrate the successful completion of this country’s 307 million dollar MCC compact. I applaud and congratulate the people and government of Benin for reaching this momentous milestone.  Our results-focused, country-driven, policy-centered partnership has created real opportunities for economic growth by opening up new access to markets, to land, to finance, and to justice. And Benin made difficult, but necessary, policy reforms to support and sustain the progress made because of the compact.

In my time in Benin so far, I visited MCC-funded projects and was able to see for myself what our partnership has achieved.

I boarded the tugboat Amerique to look at the modernized and expanded Port of Cotonou, a truly impressive site that will fuel economic activity and trade that will benefit Benin and all of West Africa.

I visited the new Legal Information Center and saw the courthouses MCC funded.  A more efficient judicial system furthers the rule of law, which is key to sustainable economic growth.

There are many ministers here tonight who have worked hard toward the compact’s success. I recognize you and your efforts.

I’d like to especially thank Minister Jean–Michel Abimbola, who served as President of the MCA-Benin Board of Directors during these final months.  

I’d also recognize Minister Mathys. As an MCA-Benin Board member, she understood the urgency of getting the job done.  Because of her creativity, a contingency fund was created to meet surprises in port construction. And because of her thinking, MCC was able to approve additional works at the port.

I’d also commend Samuel Batcho for his leadership, together with his MCA-Benin team for their professionalism. You worked with incredible intensity and excellence to achieve the great victory we celebrate tonight.

I am moved by the resilience and resolve of the people I continue to meet here, who are benefitting from your efforts. The compact is creating a better life for them and their children. Because of our partnership, the private sector in Benin is waking up to new opportunities too. Benin is creating an investment climate for greater growth and prosperity. Benin is becoming more competitive.

Benin’s progress over the last five years of compact implementation is particularly noteworthy when we think about the state of the world’s economy. We can’t ignore the fact that these are challenging economic times. In our interdependent global economy, no country is immune or isolated from global economic trends or economic competition.

Benin recognized this reality and maximized its MCC partnership to embrace strategic opportunities for greater self-sufficiency and economic growth. The modernized and expanded Port of Cotonou, for example, is an engine for growth and trade.  Already, the volume of merchandise traffic through the more efficiently-run port has nearly doubled to seven million metric tons. Wait times for container ships have been cut in half, from two days to a single day.

These changes benefit Benin’s economy.

These changes boost regional trade as the Port of Cotonou becomes a hub for commercial activity for all of West Africa, including landlocked neighbors.

And, these changes signal to the rest of the world that Benin is open for business. The new wharf has already attracted private investment and is expected to generate up to 30 million dollars in new revenues annually. The Bolloré Group, which won the bid for a 25-year concession to build and operate the port’s south wharf, will provide an additional 130 million dollars in complementary investments over the next five years.

This is an extremely good indication that private industry believes, just as the United States does, that to invest in Benin is to make a sound investment in a country that will see dynamic economic growth in years to come. What we see at the port—together with policy changes and reforms in credit, land tenure and justice—have tackled the obstacles to economic growth in Benin. You should be proud.

In Benin, MCC found a good partner. Despite the challenges, Benin’s MCC partnership has placed the country on a path to greater prosperity. You have shown great determination and wise leadership to deliver results that matter. Now, it is vital for the people of Benin to build upon and sustain the progress underway. I ask you to stay the course and continue creating opportunities for growth and measurable impact that will benefit your country, the region and the global community as a whole.

Thank you so much; merci. Vive la coopération entre le Bénin et les Etats-Unis!