US Embassy Pushes Gender Equality in Benin


On April 10, 2014, over 50 men and women convened to discuss women and power in the workplace. The event was organized by both the American Cultural Center and the Association for Professional Integration as a follow up to last month’s discussion on the notable book, “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead,” written by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. The lively debate was attended by students, teachers, and professionals from a variety of other fields, including NGOs, public administration, and the private sector. The Deputy Chief of Mission in Cotonou, Benin–Todd Whatley–remarked on the United States’ commitment to promoting gender equality worldwide by stating that “Advancing the rights of women does not just benefit women. Research shows that progress in women’s employment, health, and education leads to greater economic growth and more cohesive communities.”

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Faster Cargo Clearance Has a Positive Impact on Benin Economy

Benin Port

The average clearing time for cargo in Benin is highly reduced, leading to a boost in the transport of goods via ports. Nigeria, a neighboring country, stands to lose business at its ports due to the long clearing time of 14 to 21 days. In Cotonou, Benin, the cargo clearing process averages seven days. The faster process proves to be more cost-effective, which thereby stimulates the growth of the port industry, as well as accumulate revenue for the government. General manager of the RORO Terminal in Benin states that it takes an average of seven days to clear a container, and 24 hours to clear a vehicle. Their goal is to eventually minimize the cargo dwell time to 24 hours so that importers may retrieve their containers as soon as the ships dock.

Cargo clearance in Cotonou port has become faster due to governmental port reform that was initiated in 2011. Since the reform established a single online clearing platform called SEGUB, there is less vessel waiting time, free flow of traffic in the port access roads, and an increased volume of cargo in the port.

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Forgotten Pasts and Preserved Heritage, Benin’s African Contemporary Art Museum

Zinsou foundation contemporary African art in the Villa Ajavon in Ouidah

The port city of Ouidah stands today as a cultural hub of arts and religion in Benin. During the transatlantic slave trade, however, Ouidah’s reputation was bleak. Located on the coast of West Africa, Ouidah was the site of the Tree of Forgetfulness, where enslaved men, women, and children were forced to encircle the tree that would make them forget their identities and histories before being shipped off to the Americas. Although it may have been a process that was more metaphoric than real, the histories and cultures that were allegedly forgotten are now preserved in West Africa’s first contemporary art museum located in Ouidah. The Zinsou family established the free museum in the facade of the early 20th-century Afro-Brazilian edifice–Villa Ajavon. The museum has thrived since its debut in November 2013. By exhibiting the works of local and international artists, such as Romuald Hazoumé, the museum stands as a marker of Africa’s significance to the art world. Hazoumé exhibits paintings and photos that reflect his Beninese culture and religion, which is very much in line with the museum’s mission to preserve African artistic heritage within the actual continent. For more information on the museum and the Zinsou Foundation, visit the official website at

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Researchers in Benin Unveil New and Improved Methods of Malaria Testing

Mother and son being tested for malaria.

Mother and son being tested for malaria.

A study published in December by scientists in Benin claims to have found a new method of detecting malaria parasites. This test focuses on polymerase chain reaction technology compared to the traditional method which uses an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay test, a standard laboratory diagnostic test that uses antibodies and colour change to detect DNA molecules.

This new technique can allow for more accurate estimates of the malaria burden and transmission in different settings. This is a particularly important discovery because Africa has been plagued by malaria for decades. Aside from helping with the detection of malaria transmission, this test can also help with creating malaria vaccines. The scientists and researchers involved in the study cite it’s significance in not just Benin, but in the entire international medical field.

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Benin and Haitian President Discuss Future Cooperation

In mid October, 2012 La Francophonie summit was held in the Democratic Republic of Congo. During the summit, the President of Benin, Boni Yayi, met with the Haitian President Michel Martelly to discuss the possibility of cooperation between the two countries. President Yayi stated that Benin is “with Haiti” and wants to help with the development of the country. The two Presidents are considering a summit in order to lay out the terms of cooperation to help Haiti with development and policy.

In 2010, Benin signed an agreement with the Haitian State to provide scholarships to Haitian students and provide them with a higher education in Administrative Sciences, Economic and Financial Sciences, Biological and Environmental Sciences, Human and Social Sciences, or Science and Technology. President Martelly and President Yayi discussed the students and the program during the summit.

Haiti President Michel Martelly and Benin President Boni Yayi

Benin says goodbye to African Partnership Station (APS)

On September 14, civilian and Navy medical personnel from the NGO Project Hope concluded their four day visit to Benin. Project Hope hosted a three-day health fair to “provide optometry care, pediatric, general, and maternal health screenings”. This medical civic action program (MEDCAP) also provided education to patients about hygiene and nutrition.

In addition to the health fair, members of the Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force (SPMAGTF) 12, Security Cooperation Team 6 conducted a training led by a Marine corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP) to teach almost two-dozen members of the Beninois Armed Forces in non-lethal combat skills.

Everyone involved had a “once in a lifetime” experience and was focused to ensure that their visit had a lasting impact on both professionals and the people who they interacted with.

“Commander Matthew McLean examines a Beninese baby during a health fair as part of Africa Partnership Station (APS), September 13, 2012”

Benin: Strengthening Chinese-African Foreign Relations

On July 19, 2012 Benin’s President and Chairperson of the African Union, Thomas Yayi Boni, delivered opening remarks at the Fifth ministerial meeting of the Forum on China-African Cooperation (FOCAC) to discuss the need for Africa and China to maintain good relations with one another. This year’s conference was held in Beijing, China and encompassed various African and Chinese heads- of- state in a dialogue to initiate developmental programs for the next three years.

President Boni’s desire to preserve positive political and economic relations with China stems from his concerns that Africa’s fast-growing population will potentially harbor several challenges to the continent in regards to education, food, health, and energy. He therefore hopes China will continue to provide Africa with assistance in order to support infrastructural projects such as the construction of new highways, railroads, and telecommunication facilities.

While President Boni is receptive to an increase in Chinese investors, he affirms that Africa wants to be wealth-generating rather than exclusively being consumed for its energy and large consumer market. In order for Africa to become a global power, Yayi believes China needs to be more aware of its integration within the continent.

The subject of aid is one that develops often with controversy. Specifically in regards to Chinese aid, Western critics often highlight China’s leniency to “freely” give aid to African nations whom don’t comply with human rights standards. In addition, critics claim that aid in the past often goes unsupervised and barely reaches those with the direst need. Nevertheless in order for the aid to be successfully implemented, the nations should direct the allotted grants into specific programs that result in growth and sustainability: vocational skills training, increased medical personnel and training, and water supply projects.