Once the Latin Quarter of Africa, Benin plans to become the continent’s leading research, innovation and entrepreneurship hub by 2030. Through the ambitious project of creating an international city of innovation and knowledge (CIIS) of the Government Action Program “Benin Revealed“, his Excellency Patrice Talon intends to make his country a reference in innovation made in Africa.
Initially planned to be built on a 189-hectare plot of land in the community of Sèmè-Podji, the Sèmè-Cityinfrastructure will finally be built in the community of Ouidah on a 336-hectare site. The necessary and suitable space has been obtained for the implementation of the most important innovation project of the Beninese government. A relocation that follows a major difficulty in the implementation of this gigantic project.
According to the Beninese daily public service newspaper, La Nation, President Talon, on a tour of accounts in the country’s communities in 2021, had insinuated in these words: “… Impossible to find a location in Sèmè-Podji to implement such important projects… Sometimes our will, our commitment are not favored by a certain governance”. The Sèmè-City project has been delayed for several months due to the lack of availability of the space to house the said infrastructure. However, the Council of Ministers of Wednesday, December 22 has acted on the relocation and instructed to start the work.
What about the project of creating an international city of innovation and knowledge?
Launched as part of the Beninese government’s action program, the creation of an international city of innovation and knowledge is a unique project in Africa. Indeed, the CIIS aims to establish a center of knowledge and excellence in Benin. This center will take the form of a true “smart city” that will cover 189 hectares and will have the mission of fostering the emergence of national and regional champions in innovative fields, responding to the challenges of the country and of Africa.
Called Sèmè-City, since it was initially located in the town of Sèmè-Podji, not far from Benin’s border with Nigeria, the new building site is intended to be a model of a regional center of excellence for training, scientific research and entrepreneurship.
Three essential components
This 189-hectare campus will be articulated around three poles of activity, namely
- The higher education component with the creation of schools, continuing education centers and public or private universities that will offer quality multilingual training (open to the 4 million potential students of the 15 West African countries) and at relatively affordable cost.
- Secondly, the research component, which will be achieved through the creation of research centers and public or private laboratories that will focus on applied research based on the identification of the problems of the surrounding communities and the country;
- Finally, the incubation component with incubators to support young entrepreneurs with projects through the resources they need to develop their entrepreneurial skills.
- The government’s ambition is to graduate 130,000 students from schools and universities in Sèmè-City by 2030 (when the CIIS is supposed to be operational) and to create more than 190,000 direct and indirect jobs, 1/3 of which will be self-employed. sèmè-city activities integrate 5 interdisciplinary clusters.
The 5 interdisciplinary clusters. of sèmè-city.
- Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)
- Arts, Design and Humanities and Social Sciences
- Agriculture, Nutrition and Natural Resources
- Health and Life Sciences
- Management, Administration and Enterpreneurship
Sanitation is also at the heart of the sèmè-city project. To this end, according to a 2017 government statement, “this city is part of a concept of a smart and sustainable city, adapted to the local context, using information and communication technologies.”
The project also includes residential, commercial and leisure real estate programs, the development of green spaces, as well as sewage networks and services, carbon dioxide-free transportation and renewable energy.
It should be noted that the CIIS Development Agency is responsible for relations with private and institutional partners interested in the smart city project in Benin.