Benin is part of a group of countries where human development is considered low. The United Nations Development Programme ranked Benin 166 out of 187 countries on its 2012 human development index. Almost half the population of Benin lives on less than US$1.25/day.
Benin's strategic location on the Gulf of Guinea allows the country to generate an annual revenue through re-exportation. The country's economy, however, is unstable, which is due primarily to fluctuations in world markets for the country's cotton production.
Benin has made tremendous progress in democratic governance, particularly with the transparent and peaceful presidential elections held in 2006 and 2011. The government is also increasing its efforts to reduce corruption.
However, although Benin's constitution ensures equality between women and men, in 2010, 30 percent of women over the age of 15 were literate compared to 55 percent of men according to the World Bank, and women's incomes were 66 percent of men's incomes according to the World Economic Forum. A family code was established in 2004 to improve respect for women's rights, but those rights are still too often ignored.
Benin faces environmental problems: desertification in the northern part of the country and deforestation in the southern part. In addition, in 2010, 42 percent of its people were living in cities according to UN-HABITAT, and the urban environment is vulnerable and shows degradation.
Benin may reach some Millennium Development Goals by 2015, including achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and empowering women, and combatting HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. The primary school enrolment rate, which was 94 percent in 2010 according to the UN, is exceptionally high compared to other countries in West Africa.
Canada's international development program in Benin is aligned with the Government of Benin's Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy (PDF, 2.8 MB, 173 pages) for 2011-2015. The aim of the strategy is to:
The goal of Canada's international development program in Benin is to help the country stimulate economic growth by supporting the development of a business friendly market and the development of micro, small- and medium-sized businesses.
Canada is providing significant support for microfinance activities, helping to stabilize the sector and monitor the institutions more effectively. This effort includes support for young entrepreneurs to obtain financial services and the development of small businesses that create jobs.
Canada will continue its support for administrative reform, with the expectation that streamlined public administration procedures will help create an environment conducive to economic growth in the country.
Benin adheres to the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness (PDF, 317 KB, 23 pages).
In 2007, the country received an average rating for ownership, harmonization and results-based management. The alignment of donors' activities with national systems was rated average/low. Strengthening of mutual accountability for results is recommended.
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