Introduction

Updated to: 04 August 2016

Bordered by Togo, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, and Niger, Benin has a 121-kilometer-long coastline on the Gulf of Guinea and a population of close to 11.4 million (2018). It is one of the poorest countries in the world (ranking 23rd of 185 countries, based on GDP PPP 2015). At the same time, it is rapidly developing, especially in the densely populated coastline where the port of Cotonou is the source of most of the country’s revenues. Focusing on improving business opportunities is attractive for Benin’s government, especially since the current state income largely depends on revenues from Cotonou port. A focus on the business climate, and associated investments in e.g. infrastructure and energy, however, threatens more vulnerable aspects of society and environment. Currently, the pressure on Benin’s coastline is increasing under regular flooding combined with high population growth. Wetland and marine biodiversity is under threat.

ESIA / SEA system

Benin was one of the first countries in the region with environmental codes that contained E(S)IA provisions. The decree of 2001 firstly defined the ESIA procedures and introduced SEA in the legislation. The Agence Béninoise pour l’Environnement (ABE), the current ESIA agency, had been established even earlier. A rather complete body of legal texts and manuals was in place, and ESIA (for private sector investments) became a widely accepted practice. Around 2010, however, the ESIA system was losing strength: funding for ABE decreased, while simultaneously political leadership seemed to have lost its attention for ESIA.

In May 2015, the Council of Ministers of Benin approved an updated Decree on Environmental Assessment. In 2017, a renewed decree on Environmental Assessment procedures was published.