Digital technology is taking root in Benin. Throughout this country, nicknamed the "Latin Quarter" of Africa, citizens have access to more than 250 online services via the public service interoperability platform, launched in early 2021. Its services cover several sectors and sub-sectors such as land and property, transport, trade, port operations, civil status and citizenship, immigration and emigration, finance, education, taxation, public and private investment, justice, civil service and agriculture
In the education sector, for example, registration for national examinations and competitions and for public schools and universities has recently been made online. Online course modules are also being developed in several public higher education institutions. But the achievement that makes the authorities proud in the education sector is the establishment of the eresultats.bj platform, which is used to announce the results of all national examinations and competitions in all categories.
2,200 km of optical fiber and a tight territorial network
Before proceeding with the dematerialisation of its public administration services, Benin proceeded with the infrastructural networking of its national territory. More than 2,200 km of optical fibers were deployed in the four corners of the country (Benin's surface area covers 112,622 km2 ) in order to achieve metropolitan loops. Community Digital Points (CDPs) have been installed in many localities outside urban areas to improve broadband access. The Internet penetration rate has thus increased "from 20% in 2015 to 53% in 2019", according to the latest figures from the Autorité de Régulation des Communications Electroniques et de la Poste (ARCEP-BENIN).
The country has also created a fiber optics and digital school to support the deployment and maintenance of very high-speed networks and the development of digital uses in the economy.It has also built a data center and several state-of-the-art infrastructures, including a start-up incubator called Sèmè-One.
This incubator, located on 44250 m2 in the Sèmè-City technology hub, already hosts entrepreneurs, researchers, project leaders and students specializing in new technologies. Also called "The International City of Innovation and Knowledge", Sèmè City is being built in successive phases until 2030. Its objective is to create more than 100,000 jobs, of which at least 1/3 will be self-employed and 40% will be created by women.
Naturally, Benin is witnessing the emergence of an entrepreneurial system linked to the growth of ICTs. Innovative start-ups are emerging in this favorable environment, such as EcoCity, a start-up incubated by the Sèmè-City technology hub that installs vegetable gardens on the roofs of buildings in Cotonou, or REMA (Réseau d'Échange entre Médecins d'Afrique), which connects doctors across the continent to reduce medical errors
369 billion to support digital transformation
To implement its strategy of digitalising the economy, the Beninese government has created new institutional structures such as the National Agency for the Security of Information Systems (Anssi), the Agency for Information Services and Systems (Assi), which represents the operational arm of the State for the implementation of projects to develop digital services and information systems.
By 2026, Benin plans to complete phase II of its project to deploy very high-speed Internet throughout the country. The country, whose natural resources are limited compared to its neighbors Côte d'Ivoire and Nigeria, also plans to extend the use of online services, promote digital confidence, work on the digital transformation of local authorities, modernize public service media, switch to digital terrestrial television (DTT) and strengthen the development of digital technology in higher education. The overall cost of these various projects included in the Government Action Programme (PAG) 2021-2026, is estimated at "369 billion CFA francs", according to the authorities.
Becoming the ICT champion in West Africa
The objective of the strategy for the digitalisation of the administration and the economy defined by the Beninese authorities is clear: to make the country the ICT leader in West Africa. To achieve this, the government is now working hard to reach a high-speed Internet coverage rate of 80% for businesses and individuals, as well as a penetration rate of 40% for fixed-line and 60% for mobile. The authorities are also interested in doubling the size of the ICT market to 580 billion CFA francs and creating 90,000 direct jobs in the sector.
And last but not least, the country formerly known as Dahomey also wants to contribute, via the digitization of its economy, to the development of several other sectors of activity. The ultimate goal is to make ICT a new engine of growth, alongside agriculture, trade and tourism, which are the traditional pillars of the Beninese economy.