Executive Summary

Benin is a stable democracy in Sub-Saharan Africa with regular, peaceful elections. Presidential elections in March 2016 witnessed a transfer of power to a new government led by former businessman Patrice Talon, a bitter rival of former President Yayi. The country’s 2018 budget estimated at USD 3.15 billion prioritizes investment. The Government of Benin (GOB) has pinned significant hopes on mobilizing private sector funding for major infrastructure development projects over the next three years through public-private partnerships (PPPs). A new law to facilitate PPPs has been enacted and is expected to attract additional Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and increase the country’s economic growth under the government’s five-year action plan. The government is also working to update the country’s investment and public procurement codes in compliance with the PPP law.

President Talon launched his signature initiative in December 2016, a very ambitious USD 15 billion five-year Government Action Plan (“Programme d’Actions du Gouvernement” or PAG). The PAG lays out a development plan from 2016 to 2021 structured around 45 major projects, 95 sector-based projects, and 19 institutional reforms. With the goals of strengthening the administration of justice, fostering a structural transformation of the economy, and improving living conditions, the projects are concentrated in infrastructure, agriculture and agribusiness, tourism, health, and education. The government claims the PAG will create 500,000 jobs, though the president’s critics see plenty of room in the PAG for sole-source contracts profiting administration insiders. The Talon administration’s revocations of certain high-dollar contracts signed under the previous administration in favor of new ones with Talon-allied companies have fed this latter perception.

Benin continues its efforts to attract private investment in support of economic growth – a link the government sees as central to boosting Benin’s development prospects. In 2015, it set up an Investment and Exports Promotion Agency (APIEX) as a one-stop business startup, investment promotion, and foreign trade promotion center. Benin’s overall macroeconomic conditions were positive in 2016 and 2017, despite GDP growth slowing in 2016 due to economic recession in neighboring Nigeria on which Benin’s economy heavily depends. The cotton industry, the Port of Cotonou, telecommunications, agriculture, energy, the cement industry, and housing are the main economic drivers and prospects for investment. The country’s GDP is roughly 71 percent services, 21 percent agriculture, and 8 percent manufacturing.

On June 22, 2017, a) five-year, USD 375 million Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) compact with Benin entered into force. This follows Benin’s 2006-2011 compact, which modernized the country’s port – the principal source of government revenue – and improved land administration, the justice sector, and access to credit. The Benin Power Compact is advancing policy reforms to bolster financing for the electricity sector, attract private capital into power generation, and strengthen regulation and utility management. Infrastructure funded by the compact includes 46 megawatts of power generation capacity, modernization of the Cotonou and regional distribution grid, and expansion of minigrids. As two thirds of Benin’s population does not have access to electricity, the compact also includes a significant off-grid electrification project via its clean energy grant facility.

Table 1

Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2017 85 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/
World Bank’s Doing Business Report “Ease of Doing Business” 2017 151 of 190 http://www.doing
Global Innovation Index 2017 116 of 127 www.globalinnovationindex.org/
U.S. FDI in partner country (M USD, stock positions) 2015 USD 18 http://www.bea.gov/
World Bank GNI per capita 2015 USD 840 http://data.worldbank.org/

Policies Toward Foreign Direct Investment

The Government of Benin (GOB) actively encourages foreign investment. The creation of APIEX in 2015 resulted in a dialogue between the Government and investors to implement reforms and improve Benin’s business environment. The APIEX mission is to reduce and, where possible, eliminate administrative barriers to doing business and to attracting additional foreign direct investment. The agency has significantly reduced processing times for construction permits (from 90 to 30 days) and registration of new companies (from 15 days to one day). In July 2016, Benin passed a law establishing a commercial tribunal of first instance and a commercial appellate court, a move that is expected to expedite the settlement of business-related disputes. The full-service office that expedites customs clearances, reduces the cost of clearances, and minimizes processing barriers to clearing cargo at the Port of Cotonou makes it possible to obtain cargo clearance within 48 hours of the date of its off-loading at the Port of Cotonou, though in practice this tends to take somewhat 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.

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, plagued by corruption, and 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 https://bj.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/attorneys/.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

In 2015 the Beninese government conducted an investment policy review (IPR) jointly through the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). Further to a 2016 fact-finding mission, the UNCTAD Report on the Implementation of the IPR of Benin assesses progress in implementing the original recommendations of the IPR, and highlights a few more policy issues to be addressed in the investment climate. The full report may be found at http://investmentpolicyhub.unctad.org/Upload/BeninIR2016.pdf 

Business Facilitation

In an effort to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), Benin has instituted a visa-free system for African nationals. Those traveling on non-African passports can obtain e-visas through an online process for short stays. The country is also planning to open four new trade offices abroad to enhance Benin’s international business opportunities. One is already underway in Shenzhen, China; others will be located in Europe, the United States, and the Middle East.

Benin made property registration simpler and less expensive in order to boost the real estate market and improve access to credit. The measures apply to real personal property, estate and mortgage taxes, and property purchase receipts, with the aim of reducing corruption in the property registration process. In order to register property, individuals and businesses must present a taxpayer identification number (registration for which is now free). Land registration and property purchase certifications are free, but there is a fee for obtaining a property title. In a related measure, the government issued 2,513 titles free of charge in 2016 for owners of land that had been registered with the financial and technical assistance of the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s first compact with Benin.

It should take roughly 24 hours to register a business, and there is no need for a notary’s assistance. APIEX serves as the single investment promotion center and conduit of information between the foreign investor and the Beninese government.

Benin defines:

  • Micro-enterprises as having less than five employees;
  • Small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) as having between five and 99 employees. SMEs may be a subsidiary of an international firm.

A full-service office – run by a private company under the supervision of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport – expedites customs clearances, reduces the cost of clearances, and minimizes processing barriers to clearing cargo at the Port of Cotonou. This office 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 tends to take somewhat longer.

Outward Investment

The Beninese government has no policy or incentive in place to encourage the country’s businessmen to invest abroad. The Beninese government does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.

Benin has bilateral investment agreements with the United States, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Portugal, Canada, Guinea-Conakry, Ghana, Mauritius, Chad, Mali, Burkina Faso, the Netherlands, and China. Benin is listed as a member country to International Investment Agreements with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union, and the West African Economic and Monetary Union. Benin does not have a bilateral taxation treaty with the United States, though it is eligible under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) to export certain items duty-free to the United States.

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 http://benin.eregulations.org/ , 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-CIPB is the only business-related think-tank or body that advocates for investors, http://www.cipb.bj/ . Generally, draft bills are not available for public comment. However, individuals (including non-citizens) have the option to file appeals about or challenge passed or enacted bills with the country’s Constitutional Court.

International Regulatory Considerations

Benin is a member of the Organization for the Harmonization of African Business Law, known by its French acronym OHADA, and has adopted OHADA’s Universal Commercial Code (codified law) to manage commercial disputes and bankruptcies within French-speaking African 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 creditor may file for liquidation only.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

The preamble of the Beninese Constitution, adopted on December 11, 1990, highlights the attachment of the Beninese people “to principles of democracy and human rights as they have been defined by the Charter of the United Nations of 1945 and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights adopted in 1981 by the Organization of African Unity and ratified by Benin on 20 January 1986 and whose provisions form an integral part of this present Constitution and of Beninese law and have a value superior to the internal law.”

Benin’s domestic law 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 newly created commercial court enforces commercial related issues. Court cases tend to proceed slowly and there may be challenges in the enforcement of court decisions. Magistrates and judges, though appointed by the Executive, remain independent. Benin’s courts enforce rulings of foreign courts and international arbitration.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

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’ http://www.theiguides.org/guides/benin.pdf  details investment procedures in Benin. In 2014, CCJA judged that the Beninese government had illegally seized the ginning assets of the cotton company SODECO (Societe de Developpement du Coton, a public-private joint venture), and had illegally revoked the Port of Cotonou cargo inspection contract with the private company Benin Control. The CCJA ordered payment of USD 267 million in compensation to the two companies owned or largely controlled by then-cotton tycoon, and current Head of State, Patrice Talon (see http://www.ohada.org/index.php/fr/ohada-au-quotidien/role-des-audiences-publiques-de-la-cour-ccja ).

The APIEX one-stop-shop website, http://benin.eregulations.org/ , provides information on regulations and procedures for investment in Benin.

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

There is no existing agency that reviews transactions for competition-related concerns. Only the local court or international arbitration courts may address these concerns filed with them. There are no recent or existing competition cases to highlight.

Expropriation and Compensation

Based on a 1992 privatization law, the Government is forbidden from nationalizing private enterprises operating in Benin.

In conformity with World Bank structural reform commitments, the government opened the cotton sector and its related components (namely ginning and inputs) to the private sector in the 1990s, and in 2008 divested the ginning industry part of its agricultural parastatal SONAPRA (Societe Nationale pour la Promotion Agricole) moving the ginning assets and regulatory control functions to SODECO. SODECO is a public-private joint venture: 35 percent government, 45 percent private (owned by now-president Patrice Talon), and the remainder split between stock market, local communities, cotton growers, and staff members. In October 2012, prompted by concerns over performance and mismanagement, the government reassumed control of cotton production and ginning holdings under SONAPRA. Under President Talon’s administration, in 2016 SODECO took back control of its ginning facilities and SONAPRA has been dissolved.

In 2006, the government took over the management of previously privatized oil company SONACOP on the grounds that the company was in financial disarray, lacked funds for its operations, and was unable to supply gas stations throughout the country. SONACOP remains a state-owned enterprise today, charged with import and distribution of petroleum products.

In February 2017, the Council of Ministers announced that the government 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.

In 2012, the government took control of the private bank Banque Internationale du Benin (BIBE) stating that poor management risked leading the bank to bankruptcy and possible systemic risk to the banking sector. BIBE is still in government hands.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Benin is a member of the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) and New York Convention.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Post has no reports of government interference in judicial handling of investment disputes.

All three known past investment disputes between U.S. investors and the Beninese government were resolved in favor of the U.S. investors. However, in 2016, the government revoked the contract of U.S.-based company SECURIPORT for the provision of civil aviation and immigration security services; this dispute remains unresolved. The local courts recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards issued against the government. In 2010, Benin’s civil society challenged a contract awarded by the government in the communications sector and the award decision was reversed.

There is an investment incentive agreement between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of Benin.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

Benin is a member of the Organization for the Harmonization of African Business Law, known by its French acronym OHADA, and has adopted OHADA’s Universal Commercial Code (codified law) to manage commercial disputes and bankruptcies. 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) and as such enforces foreign arbitral awards as well as foreign court rulings. Post is unaware of any investment dispute resolution made in favor of a state-owned enterprise by domestic courts.

Bankruptcy Regulations

OHADA provisions govern bankruptcy. Debtors may file for reorganization only, and creditors may file for liquidation only.

Benin’s score of 105 on the 2018 World Bank Group Doing Business report’s ‘Resolving Insolvency” category is an upgrade from the 2017 score of 115.

Investment Incentives

Depending on the size of the investment, investors may benefit from reduced tax liability on profits or imported industrial equipment for up to one year from the date of business registration. Investors must meet several criteria including employing a minimum number of Beninese nationals, safeguarding the environment, and meeting nationally accepted accounting standards. The Investment Control Commission monitors companies that receive these incentives to ensure compliance.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

The 2008 Investment Code allows for the creation of Free Trade Zones and establishes incentives such as tax reductions for investors. There are currently three Free Trade Zones in Benin, but the only active one is located in southeastern Benin near the Nigerian border. Depending on the size of the investment, free trade zone investors may benefit from reduced tax liability on profits, and duty free on imported inputs including raw material and equipment, exported finished products, or imported industrial equipment for up to one year from the date of business registration. Investors must meet several criteria including employing a minimum number of Beninese nationals, safeguarding the environment, and meeting nationally accepted accounting standards. A local entity and a foreign investor enjoy the same opportunities. The Investment Control Commission monitors companies that receive these incentives to ensure compliance.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

According to Benin’s 2008 Investment Code, investors must meet certain criteria, including employment of a minimum number of Beninese nationals, in order to qualify for tax reductions and other incentives. These criteria are not rigorously applied to senior management. Union leader participation is required in Board of Directors’ meetings.

There are no government-imposed conditions on permission to invest and there is no “forced localization” policy pertaining to the use of domestic content in goods or technology. There are no requirements in place for foreign IT providers to turn over source code and/or provide access to encryption.

The Benin Post and Communications Regulatory Authority, ARCEP, ensures the confidentiality of the content of all communications by the service provider or operator, whether this is information or other data the service provider obtains in the course of providing the services offered. No information may be disclosed without the written consent of ARCEP or a signed order of the competent judicial authority. Additional information may be found at www.arcep.bj 

Real Property

Benin’s Land Act, enacted on August 24, 2013, codifies real property rights. Land ownership disputes account for 80 percent of the cases seen by Beninese tribunals. The Land Act is designed to ensure fair access to land and protect ownership rights. It stipulates that unoccupied acquired land cannot be reverted to other or previous owners (though there still exists the risk of squatters). The Land Act establishes a transparent legal procedure for obtaining and documenting ownership, reduces property speculation in urban and rural areas, and encourages land development. In an effort to identify property owners and register land titles, the government declared that the land registration process would be free of charge until further notice.

The Land Act stipulates that development projects financed by international or multinational agencies cannot involve or lead to forced evictions. The state is obligated to do everything possible at each stage of development project implementation to ensure due respect of economic, social and cultural rights recognized by international conventions and covenants and guarantees by the Beninese constitution.

Secured interests in real and personal property are recognized and enforced. Benin’s legal system protects and facilitates acquisition and disposition of property, land, buildings, and mortgages. Secured interests in property are registered with the Land Office of the Ministry of Finance. However, it is recommended that foreign and non-resident investors buy land with title deeds and the intervention of a notary public in order to help avoid any land disputes that may result from the acquisition process. Large land leases for investment in rural areas are enforced by local city halls in conformity with the Land Act. Additional information regarding the acquisition of property may be found at the Beninese Land Agency’s website at http://www.beninfoncier.bj/?page_id=173 .

Intellectual Property Rights

Benin is a signatory to both World Intellectual Property Organization Internet treaties. However, enforcement of intellectual property rights is constrained by Benin’s limited capacity.

In July 2016, Benin’s Director of Pharmacies announced the seizure of 2.4 tons of counterfeit solid and injectable medication from a private residence in Cotonou and the arrest of a suspect. In February 2017, the government seized another 80 tons of counterfeit drugs in Cotonou and the court found 12 individuals guilty of illegally acting as pharmacists.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en .

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Government policy supports free financial markets, subject to oversight by the Ministry of Finance and Economy and the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO). Fourteen commercial banks operate in Benin, where the access rate to banking services is estimated at 12 percent. Foreign investors may seek credit from Benin’s private financial institutions and the West Africa Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) Regional Stock Exchange (Bureau Regional des Valeurs Mobilieres – BRVM) headquartered in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire with local branches in each WAEMU member country.

There are no restrictions for foreign investors to establish a bank account in Benin and get loans on the local market. However, proof of residency or evidence of company registration is required to open a bank account.

Money and Banking System

The banking sector has been generally reliable. Fourteen private commercial banks operate in Benin in addition to the regional central bank (BCEAO) and a soon-to-open subsidiary of the African Development Bank. Only 12 percent of the Beninese population uses banking services. If microfinance institutions are taken into account, banking access may be as high as 18 percent. In recent years, non-performing loans have been growing at an alarming rate. Fifteen percent of total banking sector assets are estimated to be non-performing. Benin is part of WAEMU. The BCEAO regulates the banks in Benin and is present in all member states including Benin.

Foreign banks are required to obtain a banking license before operating branches in Benin. They are subject to the same prudential regulations as local or regional banks. Benin has lost no correspondent banking relationships during the last three years. There is no known current correspondent banking relationship in jeopardy. Foreigners are required to present proof of residency to open bank accounts.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

All funds entering the country from abroad for investment purposes require reporting and registration with the Ministry of Economy and Finance at the time of arrival of funds. Evidence of registration is required to justify remittances of investment capital, earnings, loan/lease repayments or royalties. Such remittances are allowed without restrictions.

Funds entering the country from abroad for investment purposes must be converted into local currency. For the purposes of repatriating such funds, either the invested funds or the interest/earnings or royalties can be converted into any world currency.

The currency of Benin is BCEAO-CFA Franc (international code: XOF). XOF has a fixed parity with the Euro and fluctuates against all other currencies based on this parity. This parity was established at the time of the Euro’s creation (January 1, 1999) and has not changed since then. The parity stands at XOF 655.957= EUR 1.00, guaranteed by the French government under an arrangement between the Treasury of France and the European Union.

Remittance Policies

There have been no recent plans to change investment remittance policies. Banks require documents to justify remittances related to investments. The waiting time to remit investment returns does not exceed 60 days in practice.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Benin has no Sovereign Wealth Fund.

There are 42 wholly-owned SOEs operating in the country, including mainly public utilities (electricity and water), fixed and mobile telecommunications, postal services, port and airport management, gas distribution, pension funds, agricultural production, and hotel and convention center management. There are also a number of partially-owned SOEs in Benin. Some of these receive subsidies and assistance from the government. There are no available statistics regarding the number of individuals employed by SOEs.

With the exception of public utilities (including electricity and water), pension funds, and land-line telephone service for which the public telephone company retains a monopoly, many private enterprises compete with public enterprises on equal terms.

SOE senior management may report directly to a government ministry or to a board of directors comprised of senior government officials and political leaders along with representatives of civil society and other parastatal constituencies. SOEs are required by law to publish annual reports and hold regular meetings of their boards of directors. Financial statements of SOEs are reviewed by certified accountants and private auditors. Though the government audit institution has the authority to conduct a review of SOE financial statements, it has yet to do so.

SOEs are subject to the same tax policies as the private sector.

SOEs are established pursuant to presidential decrees, which define their responsibilities. The government appoints senior management and members of the Board of Directors. SOEs are generally run like private entities.

Benin is not a member of OECD.

The courts independently process disputes between SOEs and private companies or organizations without government interference.

Privatization Program

The government has elected to support targeted divestiture programs rather than total privatization of State-Owned Enterprises. The state-owned telecommunications company, Benin Telecom Infrastructure, and its affiliate cell phone provider, Libercom, are targeted for either a divestiture program or dissolution by 2021. The state-owned electricity utility, Societe Beninoise d’Energie Electrique (SBEE) will soon be managed privately through a management contract, even though the government will retain full ownership. Through the second MCC compact on power there will be increased opportunities for Independent Power Producers (IPP) to participate in power generation.

Foreign investors may participate in privatization programs. In March 2015, the governments of Benin and Niger jointly signed a document that would dissolve the Benin-Niger Railway Organization (OCBN) parastatal and assign its concession to foreign private investors.

In December 2017, the government authorized the Minister of Infrastructure and Transport to sign a three-year renewable management contract for the Port of Cotonou with the Belgian firm Port of Antwerp International (PAI). PAI accordingly took over management of the port in May 2018. The move is intended in part to attract foreign investors to fund updates to and expansion of the port.

The government procurement process is specified by the Beninese procurement code (Code des Marches Publiques: http://www.finances.bj/spip.php?article804 ). Tenders from the central government are announced in major publications, newspapers, and posted on the website of the Ministry of Finance and Economy at www.finances.bj . Published tenders often include local investor participation requirements.

Beninese procurement law allows for open and closed bid processes. Contracts are often awarded based on government solicitations to short-listed companies with industry-specific expertise, often identified based on companies’ commercial activities conducted in other overseas markets. The public procurement process is not always deemed non-discriminatory. Foreign companies have expressed concerns about unfair treatment, biased consideration, and improper practices specific to the process of selecting short-listed companies.

In general, government policies and public tenders are made public online and in the newspapers. Anti-corruption, human rights, environmental protection, and consumer NGOs and activists are active in Benin and report misconduct and violations of good governance practices. There are also government-funded agencies in charge of monitoring business conduct. They include the Post and Communication Regulation Agency (ARCEP), the Anti-Money Laundering Agency, the National Commission on Systems and Freedom, and the National Anti-Corruption Authority (ANLC).

Benin does not currently have a significant extractives/ mining industry, though small-scale or artisanal mining activities do take place in some parts of the country.

Benin has laws aimed at combatting corruption. The government has demonstrated the political will to reduce corruption and has imposed administrative sanctions and removals from office against high-profile, allegedly corrupt officials. In early- and mid-2018 the government requested, and the National Assembly approved, the lifting of parliamentary immunity of a small number of opposition parliamentarians accused of corruption or embezzlement during former government roles. No current or former high-level government official has yet faced prosecution in Beninese courts, leaving the effectiveness of anti-corruption efforts unproven. Corruption remains a recurring problem in areas including public administration, government procurement, customs and taxation, and the judiciary.

Bribery is illegal and subject to up to ten years’ imprisonment, but enforcement of this is subject to the same capacity constraints that hamper many rule of law issues in Benin. Private companies establish their own code of conduct to avoid conflicts of interest in line with the country’s laws. The government has identified the fight against corruption as a national priority. Efforts reflecting government focus on fighting corruption include the 2013 creation of the National Anti-Corruption Authority (ANLC) in charge of referring corruption cases to court. By law, the ANLC has the ability to combat money laundering, electoral fraud, economic fraud, and corruption in the public and private sectors. Benin’s State Audit Office is also responsible for identifying and acting against corruption in the public sector.

Benin is a signatory of UN Anticorruption Convention and the OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions.

Resources to Report Corruption

Contact at government agency or agencies responsible for combating corruption:
Jean-Baptiste Elias
01 BP 7060 Cotonou, Benin
+229 21 308 686

Ms. Blanche Sonon
Social Watch
02 BP 937, Cotonou, Benin
+229 21042012 – 229 95961644

There has been no political violence affecting private investment in Benin since the end of the country’s socialist period in 1990. The country held a peaceful political transition in April 2016.

The government adheres to internationally recognized rights and labor standards. Benin’s constitution guarantees workers’ freedom to organize, assemble, and strike. Government authorities may declare strikes illegal if they are deemed a threat to public order or the economy and may require those on strike to maintain minimum services. Approximately 75 percent of salaried employees belong to unions. There are several union confederations. Unions are obliged to operate independently of government and political parties, but in practice often act to further political aims. Benin’s labor code, as revised in 2017, is favorable to employers. Most of Benin’s working population is engaged in agriculture or other primary-sector activities. The official unemployment rate in Benin in 2014 was 14.3 percent, though estimates of actual unemployment figures are much higher. Unskilled and skilled labor and qualified professionals are generally available. Nearly 90 percent of youth between the ages of 15 and 29 work in the informal sector. The standard legal work week is 40 hours and payment of overtime is allowed.

In August 2017, President Talon signed a new law on the framework for private sector and government employment, termination of employment, and placement of labor in Benin. The new law sets a maximum limit of three to nine months’ salary (calculated using the last 12 months of salary) to be paid to an employee in case of abusive termination of employment or layoffs. If fired on legitimate grounds, but short of being caught red-handed doing something unlawful, an employee with a minimum of one year on the job is entitled to receive two months’ salary as severance pay. Under the former law, private companies who dismissed employees for unsatisfactory performance were routinely sued. The law also allows for multiple renewals of limited time contracts; previously, a limited duration contract could only be renewed twice, and upon a third renewal was considered an employment contract with indefinite duration. Many of Benin’s labor laws were holdovers from the Marxist era and had served as impediments to private enterprise, despite a revamping of the labor code in 1998.

Civil courts and the Directorate of Labor deal with labor dispute resolution, and collective bargaining is common in line with the labor law.

The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) offers financial underwriting for companies wishing to invest in Benin.

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy

Host Country Statistical Source USG or International Statistical Source USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (M USD) 2015 USD 8,291 2016 USD 8,573 www.worldbank.org/en/country 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country (M USD, stock positions) 2016 USD 2 2017 USD 2 BEA data available at
Host country’s FDI in the United States (M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A N/A N/A BEA data available at
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI

Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)
Inward Direct Investment Outward Direct Investment
Total Inward Amount 100% Total Outward Amount 100%
France 134 77.90% Togo 23 65.71%
Equatorial Guinea 16 9.30% Côte d’Ivoire 7 20%
Switzerland 11 6.25% Kenya 5 14.29%
Gabon 6 3.48% Cameroon 0 0%
Denmark 5 2.90% Congo DR 0 0%
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment

Data not available.

Political and Economic Section
U.S. Embassy, Boulevard de la Marina, Cotonou

2018 Investment Climate Statements: Benin
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