Working Paper
Beyond Electoral Democracy

Foreign Aid and the Challenge of Deepening Democracy in Benin

In the 1990s, analysts were almost unanimous in considering Benin to be one of the most important aid recipients among the newly democratizing African countries. After more than two decades of democratic practice, the country has clearly completed the phase of democratic transition. In this study, I argue that the main present-day political challenges in Benin are related both to the quality or deepening of democracy and to poverty reduction. Foreign aid has changed as donors have reoriented their assistance in order to target specific issues like the strengthening of civil society, accountability and the rule of law. Thanks to donors, success has been achieved in some sectors but it is far from certain that these positive experiences are enough to prevent political tensions between incumbents and opposition parties around issues of governance. Moreover, when it comes to more substantial aspects of democracy, such as enhancing accountability and fighting corruption, Benin still has a long way to go.