Benin’s Democratic and Developmental Progress: A Conversation with H.E. Thomas Boni Yayi and the Hon. Dana J. Hyde

On September 10, the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center hosted H.E. Thomas Boni Yayi, President of the Republic of Benin, and the Honorable Dana J. Hyde, CEO of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). The Atlantic Council’s event came on the heels of Benin signing a second MCC compact on September 9 with President Yayi and US Vice President Joseph Biden.

The Honorable Constance Berry Newman, Africa Center Senior Fellow, welcomed attendees to the Atlantic Council and introduced the distinguished speakers.

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Yayi’s remarks focused on what he called the “pillars” of democracy in Benin: strong institutions, which are transparent, accountable, and backed up by rule of law; freedom of speech, movement, and freedom from insecurity; youth employment; and infrastructure. He noted that as Benin works to advance and sustain its democratic progress, the MCC will be a vital partner.

Infrastructure in the energy sector, he noted, is particularly important, and is the focus of Benin’s new MCC compact. Yayi commended US President Barack Obama for his green energy initiatives—both in Africa and in the United States—and suggested that the challenge of climate change is one that cannot be understated.

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Hyde noted that lack of access to power in Benin, as in much of the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, is one of the largest obstacles to the economy’s growth—only one-third of Benin’s citizens have reliable access to power. The new $375 million compact will focus on sustainable power generation and invest in power generation and distribution infrastructure, with a focus on renewable and green energy. It will be MCC’s largest investment to date in solar power, and the US government’s largest investment in off-grid electrification.


In the moderated discussion that followed, Africa Center Senior Fellow Aubrey Hruby spoke with panelists about the lessons learned from Benin’s first MCC compact in 2006 and how those lessons will inform its work on the second compact; the importance of regional integration in creating prosperous and sustainable economic growth; and the policy and reform components of MCC’s compacts.

Image: Aubrey Hruby with H.E. Thomas Boni Yayi and the Hon. Dana J. Hyde at the Atlantic Council on September 10.