Today, we wrapped up our first stop: Benin, a small West African nation that became the first country on the continent to make the transition from a dictatorship to democracy. MCC’s $375 million Benin Power Compact represents the largest single U.S. Government overseas investment in off-grid electricity in a single country and MCC’s largest investment in utility-scale solar power generation. In addition to power generation and distribution, the compact addresses wide-ranging policy reforms that are key for greater private-sector participation in this important sector.
Only one-third of Benin’s population has access to electricity, and electricity imports account for 80 percent of total consumption. Additionally, demand for power is growing quickly, putting stress on the national electrical grid and creating daily power outages. Without additional power generation, Benin cannot meet the needs of its citizens or businesses, or fully capitalize on its economic potential.
The Benin Power Compact builds on the success of MCC’s first $307 million compact with the country, completed in 2011. During our visit, we saw the Port of Cotonou, where MCC’s investment increased port capacity, improved security and enhanced intra-port traffic flow.
Our team, along with U.S. Ambassador to Benin Lucy Tamlyn, had productive meetings with President of Benin Patrice Talon and key members of his cabinet in Cotonou, and members of the National Assembly in Porto-Novo, the country’s capital. We also toured an important electricity substation, Vedeko. While it is responsible for providing power to all of Cotonou, the port and the airport, it is forced to rely on imported power from neighboring countries.
For me, a highlight was meeting Mme. Codjo Awahou, an entrepreneur and owner of Awa Fish, a small seafood distribution company in Cotonou. As a beneficiary of the Financial Services Project in MCC's first compact, she was able to finance a new commercial freezer, allowing her to expand her business. The Benin Power Compact will have an even bigger impact on her bottom line — a reliable electricity supply means she will no longer have to rely on an expensive generator to keep her fish frozen during power outages.
Access to power is crucial for inclusive economic growth, and I look forward to tracking the progress of businesses like Mme. Codjo's throughout the compact. Our CEO had a great visit with Awa.