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Beninese FM's China visit gives new impetus to bilateral cooperation

Source: CGTN | 2024-03-30
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Beninese FM's China visit gives new impetus to bilateral cooperation

By Bereket Sisay

Beninese Foreign Minister Shegun Adjadi Bakari is paying an official visit to China from March 28 to April 1, at the invitation of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, also a member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.

The visit gives the relationship between the two countries, which is just over half a century old, a new momentum. The bilateral relationship between China and Benin is among the productive and evolving relationships that the former has with many African countries. Benin is one of the countries that have largely benefited from China's flagship investment projects, such as the Belt and Road Initiative and the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). This cooperation has produced concrete results in terms of boosting Benin's economic growth and strengthening partnerships.

China has been helping to modernize Benin's agricultural sector to help the country achieve food security through capacity building and donations of agricultural machinery and equipment. At the same time, Chinese private foreign investment in Benin has been booming.

China has also invested $536 million in Benin between 2000 and 2020 to build roads, communications and water infrastructure. Cooperation in education, healthcare and vocational training for locals is another milestone. Benin also benefits from a Chinese initiative that allows some of its products duty-free access to the Chinese market, with its main exports being raw cotton, soyabean and vegetable residues.

Over the past few decades, partnership with China has helped the country harness its rich resources for development and improve the lives of its people. The West African nation of Benin, with a population of around 14 million and vast natural resources, has a lot of growth potential.

However, there are many untapped resources, such as in the agricultural and industrial sectors, that require intervention and could potentially act as a catalyst for its growth. Therefore, a cooperative relationship with China, which has a proven track record in assisting African nations to further their development efforts, would be of great importance as the economies of scale indicate.

In this context, the visit of the Beninese Foreign Minister, Adjadi Bakari, has the explicit effect of further strengthening the evolving relationship and helping Benin to accelerate its development through development cooperation with China. It can also provide an opportunity to explore ways to speed up the implementation of agreements already signed and to explore future avenues of bilateral engagement.

In September 2023, the two countries elevated their bilateral relations to a strategic partnership after Beninese President Patrice Athanase Guillaume Talon visited China and met and discussed with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing. During the visit, the two countries signed a series of cooperation documents on the Belt and Road Initiative, green development, digital economy, agricultural products and public health as a new step to consolidate cooperation. Both leaders expressed their commitment to further deepen cooperation and realize common development.

The visit of the Beninese Foreign Minister is therefore a good opportunity to highlight the progress made in implementing these agreements and commitments and to explore possible ways to put them into practice on the ground.

Fruitful cooperation between China and Benin will not only benefit the two countries but also go beyond and make a positive contribution to Africa's development. Africa is at a preliminary stage of implementing the African Free Trade Area, which connects 1.3 billion people in 55 countries and has the potential to lift 30 million people out of extreme poverty in the near future.

The continent has also completed a decade of practical implementation of Agenda 2063, the African Union's flagship project that aims to achieve milestones in key development indicators. Achieving all these goals requires robust countries that have fully exploited their resources and are able to build key infrastructure, as well as modernize their agricultural and industrial sectors, which could accelerate their own development and add momentum to continental integration.

In this light, the relationship between China and Benin is of great transcendental value, as it enables an African nation to bridge its development gaps through investment and various supports that pave the way for continental prosperity.

Bereket Sisay is a special commentator on current affairs for CGTN, with a special focus on Africa.

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