Speech

October 10, 2011

As Prepared by

Cotonou, Benin

Remarks of MCC CEO Daniel Yohannes at the Port of Cotonou, Benin

What an impressive site!  It is a pleasure to be at the Port of Cotonou.

One of my main responsibilities as the Chief Executive Officer of the U.S. Government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation is to deliver results. The American people and the U.S. Congress want to see results with each and every investment MCC makes. The countries we partner with around the world want to see results too. The people of Benin have worked with determination and diligence to deliver on the promise of their MCC partnership and to fulfill our shared goal of poverty reduction through economic growth.

The improvements made here at the Port of Cotonou are proof of this commitment to results.

The new wharf, the extended jetty, the expanded roads and rail, strengthened electrical systems and fire protection, the tugboat service, modernized customs, and streamlined logistics increase the port’s efficiency.

Greater efficiency means this port can do what it is designed to do.

It can be the driver of economic growth for all of Benin. Fifty percent of Benin’s national income and 85 percent of all customs income originate here.

It can be a hub for trade, bringing goods into Benin and out to world markets. A well-managed and safe port makes it easier for container ships to navigate, saving them shipping time and money. Already, business is up; the volume of merchandise traffic flowing through the port has nearly doubled since the start of the compact to 7 million metric tons per year.

It can be the engine for regional competitiveness. The port here is a gateway to West Africa, including such landlocked countries as Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.

In all these ways, the port benefits Benin’s entire population of over eight million people. Here, we see a place that creates jobs, generates trade and empowers entrepreneurs to compete. This will generate the economic growth that will lift the people of Benin out of poverty and toward prosperity.

What an outstanding achievement! I am honored to join you to inaugurate the improved Port of Cotonou. Your efforts are paying off.

From the 360,000 tons of rocks you brought in on trucks and rail cars, to the hundreds who worked on expanding this port, including those who worked on land and in the water, to the 150,000 tons of concrete that were poured, to the fire and security systems you installed, to the safety and environmental safeguards you practiced, this port is built to last.

From the Minister of Maritime Economy, to the director general and the deputy director general of the port, to the rest of the MCA-Benin unit at the port, to the major contractors and the supervisory engineers, to the National Coordinator and the MCA-Benin project director, you all demonstrated professionalism, a commitment to solving problems, and an impressive resolve to get the job done.

I offer warmest congratulations to His Excellency Dr. Boni Yayi, the President of Benin, for his leadership of this winning team.

What we unveil today must endure. This new port is an investment in the economic future of Benin. It is already attracting greater private sector investment. It will provide jobs and facilitate economic activity that will support growth for years to come. The Port of Cotonou will live up to its name, the lungs of Benin -- the place that generates revenue and gives life to Benin’s economy, today and for generations to come.

Congratulations and merci. Vive la coopération entre le Bénin et les Etats-Unis!