Ouidah (Benin), June 11 (IANS) Benin will become self-sufficient in tractors and could even export them to the West African region once a $15 million Indian-aided plant to produce 2,500 machines annually begins production a year from now.
"The plant is to be funded entirely by a $15 million Indian line of credit," Mahesh Sachdev, the Indian High Commissioner to Nigeria, who is concurrently accredited to Benin, said at the groundbreaking ceremony here Monday.
"A comprehensive contract to put up this plant in 12 months has been awarded to M/s Angelique International," he added. Headquartered in the Noida, Angelique International is a global project engineering, procurement and construction company that has a presence in 15 African countries.
Sachdev expressed the confidence that "the Ouidah Tractor Plant will contribute significantly to agricultural renaissance in Benin and beyond," adding: "Two similar Indian-aided plants are already running successfully in Chad and Mali."
"This important project is a part of the broad bilateral synergy spurred by President Thomas Yayi Boni's historic state visit to India in March 2009. The visit highlighted that India and Benin shared high values such as democracy, secularism and quest for inclusive socio-economic growth and non-alignment," Sachdev said.
Since Boni's visit, bilateral trade has surged to $733 million in the fiscal ended March 31, making India among Benin's top two trading partners.
"Indian development assistance in various forms, including grants and lines of credit, has helped Benin in such critical sectors as railways, ambulances, buses and computers for university students, rural electrification, healthcare, flood-relief and this tractor project," Sachdev said, adding that over the past six years, India has donated to Benin over 400 tractors which have been appreciated for their ruggedness and compatibility to local agricultural requirements.
Beninese professionals have also benefited from training in India under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) run by the ministry of external affairs. Following the second Africa-India Forum Summit, Benin's ITEC quota for 2012-13 has been increased to 30 of which 12 slots have been utilised till December 2012.
Sachdev paid glowing tributes to President Boni who, he said, had steadfastly supported the growth of Benin-India ties, adding this "would long inspire us all" to work for amity between the two countries.
India has also contributed in other areas. In 2010, two Indian cotton experts visited Benin. This was followed by another five-member cotton delegation to announce a three-year Technical Assistance Programme in May 2012.
The delegation met Beninese Agriculture Minister on May 24, 2012, while Sachdev met President Boni on the same day to apprise him of the project.
(Francis Kokutse can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)