AFRODAD in partnership with Social Watch Benin organized a one-day national debt advocacy meeting in the Republic of Benin on September 17, 2019. The main aim was to discuss the debt situation in the country and to deliberate on strategies to ensure that country's debt levels remain sustainable. The meeting also sought to draw lessons that can inform debt management strategies in other Africa countries. The main subject matter was “Debt Management strategies in Benin: Lessons for the States of West and Central African Countries”. The meeting brought together more than 30 participants drawn from government, civil society organizations and multi/bilateral development partners.
In her keynote address, the Chair of the Board of Directors of Social Watch Benin, Mrs. Blanche Sonon, described the forum as a well-timed initiative to generate commitments from government and various stakeholders to step up efforts to curb Benin's corruption challenges and to reduce the country's public debt which had reached 56.2% by December 31, 2018. It was acknowledged that the forum offered a good opportunity for the country to improve debt management strategies while allowing citizens, civil society and the government to come together and shape the future of Benin in the face of the country's un-favorable debt situation.
AFRODAD urged the Benin government and other development stakeholders to ensure that debt contraction reflects set institutional rules and frameworks that promote the transparent and accountable management of public funds. Resultantly, the Assistant Director of the Autonomous National Sinking Fund of the Republic of Benin as well as the Director of the Civil Cabinet to the Ministry of Economy and Finance of the Republic welcomed the idea of Civil Society involvement in issues of debt management. They highlighted the fact that Benin has rigorous multistakeholder institutional frameworks on debt management that have kept the country relatively free of debt distress. They committed to remain open and receptive to suggestions on transparent debt management as per AFRODAD and its partner Social Watch Benin advice.
One of the major highlights of the meeting included an interactive panel discussion which created fruitful exchanges on the way forward in challenging transparent management of public funds. One central issue that filtered from panel discussions included the fact that Civil Society engagements on issues of public finance should not just be a passive formality. They should play an active role in promoting transparent and accountable debt management.