1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment
The Beninese government encourages foreign investment, which it views as critical for economic development and successful implementation of the $15 billion PAG. APIEX aims to promote foreign direct investment and reduce administrative barriers to doing business. APIEX serves as the single investment promotion center and conduit of information between foreign investors and the Beninese government. It is the technical body responsible for reviewing applications for approval under the Investment Code and the administrative authority for special economic zones (SEZs). The agency has significantly reduced processing times for registration of new companies (from 15 days to one day) and construction permits (from 90 to 30 days), but the World Bank 2020 Doing Business report indicates that it takes 88 days to deal with construction permits. In practice, APIEX faces capacity constraints, processing times can be longer than stated, and its website is often out of date and lacks information on the latest regulations and laws. The Investment Code, amended in 2020, establishes conditions, advantages, and rules applicable to domestic and foreign direct investment. Additional information on business startup is available at .
Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment
Beninese law guarantees the right to own and transfer private property. The court system enforces contracts, but the judicial process is inefficient and suffers from corruption. Enforcement of rulings is problematic. Most firms entering the market work with an established local partner and retain a competent Beninese attorney. A list of English-speaking lawyers and legal counselors is available on the Embassy’s website:
Other Investment Policy Reviews
In an effort to facilitate business travel and tourism, Benin implements a visa-free system for African nationals and an online e-visa system for other foreign nationals. The country is working to open four new trade offices abroad to enhance Benin’s international business opportunities. One is already underway in Shenzhen, China; others are planned for Europe, the United States, and the Middle East.
Benin’s 2017 Property Code made property registration simpler and less expensive in order to boost the real estate market, improve access to credit, and reduce corruption in the registration process. The measures apply to real personal property, estate and mortgage taxes, and property purchase receipts. In order to register property, individuals and businesses must present a taxpayer identification number (registration for which is free). Land registration and property purchase certifications are free, but there is a fee for obtaining a property title.
Benin Control – a private company operating under the supervision of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport – is charged with expediting customs clearances and minimizing processing barriers to clearing cargo at the Port of Cotonou. Benin Control makes it possible to obtain cargo clearance within as little as 48 hours after its off-loading at the Port of Cotonou, though in practice this can take longer. The reinstitution of the cargo inspection and scanning program known as PVI, first tried in 2012, resumed operations at the Port of Cotonou in 2017. Under the PVI program, Benin Control scans between 30 and 45 randomly selected shipping containers per hour. Benin Control bills all containers exiting the Port of Cotonou – regardless of whether they are selected for scanning – at the rate of 35,000 FCFA ($68) for a 20-foot container, and 45,000 FCFA ($78) for a 40-foot container.
The government, through the state-owned Benin Water Company (SONEB) and Beninese Electric Energy Company (SBEE), provides service connections to potable water and electricity free of charge to Small and Medium Size Enterprises and Industries. Eligible companies are responsible for paying the water and electricity meter installation fees. Online application is available at and
3. Legal Regime
Transparency of the Regulatory System
Benin is a member of UNCTAD’s international network of transparent investment procedures. Foreign and domestic investors can find detailed information on administrative procedures applicable to investment and income generating operations at , including the number of steps, name and contact details of the entities and persons in charge of procedures, required documents and conditions, costs, processing time, and legal bases justifying the procedures. There is no rule to prevent a monopoly over a particular business sector. The Benin Private Investment Council ( ) is the only business-related think-tank or body that advocates for investors. Generally, draft bills are not available for public comment though promulgated laws are available at . Individuals, including non-citizens, have the option to file appeals about or challenge enacted laws with the Constitutional Court.
International Regulatory Considerations
Benin is a member of WAEMU and the Organization for the Harmonization of African Business Law (OHADA) and has adopted OHADA’s Universal Commercial Code (codified law) to manage commercial disputes and bankruptcies within member countries. Benin is also a member of OHADA’s Common Court of Justice and Arbitration and the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). OHADA provisions govern bankruptcy. Debtors may file for reorganization only, and the creditors may file for liquidation only. Benin is a member of the WTO and notifies all draft technical regulations to the organization’s Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT).
Legal System and Judicial Independence
Benin has a civil law system. The legal framework includes various legislative and regulatory texts covering family law, land law, labor law, criminal law, criminal procedure, and civil, commercial, social, and administrative proceedings. The Cotonou commercial court, created in 2017, enforces commercial laws and regulations. In 2018, Benin created an anti-terrorism, drugs, and economic crimes court (CRIET), which until recently lacked a mechanism for substantive appeal. The CRIET has convicted and sentenced numerous government detractors and political opponents, raising concerns about its independence. In February 2020, Benin created an appeals chamber within the CRIET. In general, judicial processes are slow, and challenges to the enforcement of court decisions are common. Magistrates and judges, though independent by law, are appointed by the Executive. Benin’s courts enforce rulings of foreign courts and international arbitration.
Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment
The Investment Code provides the legal framework for foreign direct investment. The Code establishes conditions, advantages, and rules applicable to domestic and foreign direct investment. The GOB website makes available online information on foreign direct investment regulations and procedures, though its website is often incomplete and out of date. Benin is a member of OHADA’s Common Court of Justice and Arbitration (CCJA) and the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). Investors may include arbitration provisions in their contracts in order to avoid prolonged entanglements in the Beninese courts. The United Nations investment guide for Benin ( ) provides a general guide for foreign direct investment steps and procedures.
Competition and Antitrust Laws
Benin’s legal framework does not address anti-trust or competition issues. The government does not have an agency or office that reviews transactions for competition-related concerns.
Expropriation and Compensation
The government is forbidden by law from nationalizing private enterprises operating in Benin.
In July 2020 West African hotel developer Teyliom International filed a request for arbitration with the World Bank International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) in relation to the Beninese government’s expropriation of a hotel the company had been constructing in Cotonou. The arbitration case is currently pending at ICSID.
In 2017, the government announced that it was terminating concessions for the management of four state-owned hotels (two in Cotonou and two in northern Benin), and instructed the Minister of Justice to file reparations claims against the concessionaires on the grounds that they had not fulfilled their concession agreements.
ICSID Convention and New York Convention
Benin is a member of ICSID. Benin is a party to the New York Convention of 1958 on the Recognition and enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards.
Investor-State Dispute Settlement
Benin does not have a bilateral investment treaty with the United States.
There is an ongoing investment dispute between the Beninese government and a U.S. immigration and aviation security company. In 2016, the U.S. company alleged the government canceled a contract for the provision of immigration security systems at Cotonou’s airport. In 2017, the U.S. company filed a request for arbitration with the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). In 2019, the ICC found the government at fault for cancelling the contract and issued a $95 million judgment in favor of the U.S. company. In 2020, the ICC upheld its earlier decision. The government has not respected the ICC decision.
Since 2010, three other disputes between U.S. investors and the Beninese government were resolved in favor of the U.S. investors.
International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts
Benin has adopted OHADA’s Universal Commercial Code (codified law) to manage commercial disputes and bankruptcies. Benin is a member of the OHADA, CCJA, and ICSID.
OHADA provisions govern bankruptcy. Debtors may file for reorganization only, and creditors may file for liquidation only. Benin ranked 108 out of 190 in the “Resolving Insolvency” category of the 2020 World Bank Doing Business report.