Aidoghie Paulinus, Copenhagen
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of the Republic of Benin, Aurelien Agbenonci, has said that the Republic of Benin plans to construct a railway network to Nigeria.
Agbenonci made the disclosure on the sideline of the African-Nordic Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, in Copenhagen, Denmark.
The railway network which will link the Republic Benin, Niger, and Nigeria, according to Agbenonci, is to get the three countries really integrated, put the economies together, create wealth in order to fight poverty in the affected countries.
The development, Agbenonci added, will facilitate the circulation of goods to give good opportunities to businessmen and women in the three countries in order to have trade facility.
The railway network which is the idea of the President of Benin Republic, Patrice Tallon, Agbenonci further said, will assist the movement of people and will be a very important project for the integration of the three countries.
“We need now to walk the talk. We have been talking about integration and it is important to have something on the ground which can really boost our economies.
“So, Benin is trying to put forward this idea with the President of Niger, and also, the two presidents are also of the opinion that they cannot do a project like that without the Big Nigeria and with the support of China.
“So, this is the idea and we feel very excited about it as Benin. We will start conversation with Nigeria in the coming weeks. We already had a good conversation with Niger.
“Actually, there is a company between Niger and Benin, but we think that we need to dream big and there is no big dream in West Africa without Nigeria,” Agbenonci said.
On the financing of the project, Agbenonci said the actual figures would be released after the feasibility study.
“It is a lot of money, but it is also a lot of benefits for our countries,” the Benin Republic minister added.
On the involvement of the Chinese government in the project, Agbenonci said the Chinese will use concessional resources to support the three countries.
He added that the type of infrastructure being envisaged cannot be complete without the support of a big country like China.
“This is why my president made a public statement that we don’t want to do this with Bolori because Bolori is an individual, a French individual. We understand his interest for Africa, but we also know that this goes beyond his capabilities and facilities he can offer,” Agbenonci added.
The Chinese Exim Bank, he also said, would be called on board to give concessional facility financing to the three countries to begin the initiative.
Agbenonci further said a study had already been carried out on the segment between Benin and Niger, saying that the project was not starting from the scratch.
“I think countries at the ministerial level, we need to agree on the roadmap and the technical teams will see together and after that, we will involve the Chinese for the feasibility study.
“There is already a study for the segment between Benin and Niger, but the segment between Benin and Nigeria is not yet done.
“So, we are not starting from scratch. There is something already there and we will build on that to have it completed,” Agbenonci further said.
Responding, Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, said it was a project that is being pushed to further integrate the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) region, starting with Niger, Benin and Nigeria.
“So, it is something that we have to look at and take into consideration. But we are all for greater integration of West Africa,” Onyeama said.