Porto-Novo: Monday offered concessional financial assistance of USD 100 million to Benin with an aim to help the West African country meet its Sustainable Development Goals.
President Ram Nath Kovind is currently on the first leg of his three-nation visit to Africa, having reached the port city of Cotonou in Benin on Sunday. He was accorded a ceremonial welcome by his Beninese counterpart Patrice Talon on Monday, following which the two sides held a meeting on bilateral relations.
The two sides signed four agreements and Memoranda of Understanding (MoU). The four documents include a Cultural Exchange Programme between India and Benin for the years 2019-2023. It also includes an agreement on the mutual exemption from visa requirement for holders of diplomatic, official/service passports.
Two MoUs were also signed, including an MoU in the field of export credit and investment insurance, and another on the e-VBAB network project, according to the Ministry of External Affairs.
Addressing the National Assembly of Benin today, President Kovind said: "We are honoured that we have been able to share our expertise and resources, in whatever manner possible, to support food, energy, water, and health security in Benin. We hope to soon complete the up-gradation of Water Supply Schemes in 103 villages in your country through a financing arrangement of USD 42 million."
"Our partnership under the International Solar Alliance can help us light a million homes in a sustainable manner and provide access to energy to people in the remotest corners. To further enhance our development cooperation, today I offered President Talon concessional financial assistance of USD 100 million to help Benin meet its Sustainable Development Goals," he added.
The President stressed that technology has been at the centre of India's development partnership with the African countries.
"Following the success of our Pan-African e-network initiative, we now look forward to the implementation of the E-Vidya Bharati and E-Arogya Bharati initiatives with Benin. Under it, we are offering free tele-education to 15,000 students and free telemedicine courses to 1000 doctors and paramedics in various African countries," he said.
The President further thanked the West African country for joining hands with India as stakeholders in the International Solar Alliance and strengthening the global fight against climate change and terrorism.
The International Solar Alliance is a group of 121 solar resource-rich countries with headquarters in Gurugram, India. The organisation aims to deploy over 1,000 gigawatts of solar energy and mobilise more than USD 1,000 billion into solar power by 2030, according to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
"We value Benin's anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Guinea and stand ready to enhance our defence and security partnership with you," Kovind said.
"In our quest for a permanent seat at the UN Security Council, we also fully support due African representation in an expanded UN Security Council," the President said.
He also said that Benin was the eighth African country that he has visited since taking over as the President of India two years ago.
According to the Ministry of External Affairs, President Kovind will be attending a banquet hosted by his Beninese counterpart in his honour.
Kovind will meet members of the Indian community at a reception in Cotonou on July 30 before leaving for The Gambia.