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MCC Powers Small Business Growth in Benin

By Millennium Challenge Corporation

Bass, red carp, and sardine are among the wide variety of fish that fill the cold storage rooms of a small business owned by a female entrepreneur in Cotonou, Benin. AWA Fish, named after its owner, Awahou Codjo, serves as a link between more than 400 fishing families and Benin’s active retail fish markets.  

In 2009, a grant from the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a Feed the Future partner, helped Codjo grow her business by financing the purchase of two walk-in freezers, one generator, and two motorized boats, along with training in accounting and related software. 

AWA Fish’s grant was part of a $17.3 million MCC-funded project to increase productivity, profitability, and access to finance for micro-, small-, and medium-sized businesses. The project also helped strengthen the Government of Benin’s supervision of microfinance institutions, and established a new credit bureau that provides microfinance institutions with current information on potential borrowers.  

For AWA Fish, it was an opportunity to grow: The business has more than doubled its storage capacity, from 170 tons in 2009 to 500 tons today. “We have increased our storage capacity. We have new employees. We have better information. We have better visibility with financial institutions,” Codjo said.  

Her business has also established better terms with a national network of fishing families. Before MCC’s investment, suppliers would not deliver fish without agreeing on the price first and usually expected immediate payment. With increased storage capacity, Codjo is now able to negotiate the price of fish the day after delivery and make payments days after that. Some of AWA Fish’s suppliers have even increased their catches to meet the demand.

Access to finance is cited as one of the top obstacles to doing business in Benin, particularly for women. Although Benin has many women-owned businesses in a variety of sectors from agriculture to crafts, the vast majority of them are small and not formally registered. Since MCC’s investment, Codjo’s business has established greater credibility with local banks—in 2009, AWA Fish had a revolving line of credit of up to $80,000; today, that line of credit has doubled.  

In 2015, MCC took another step to invest in the productivity of businesses like Codjo’s. Theagency signed a new grant agreement with the Government of Benin to increase electricity production, improve distribution, and implement policy reforms crucial for sustainability and private sector investment in the country’s power sector. 

For Codjo and other entrepreneurs in Benin, MCC’s investment in a strengthened power sector will help to reduce electricity imports—which account for approximately 90 percent of total power consumption—boost opportunities for growth, and provide a stable source of power in what has long been an unstable system strained by daily power outages.

Codjo, who faces power blackouts, overstressed generators and freezers, and the threat of fire—and keeps her electrician on speed dial—envisions the economic advantages of a more reliable grid for her business. 

“If I have better access to electricity, it will allow me to earn more money,” she said, “because the money we are throwing toward buying a new generator, to repair this and to repair that, we won’t need to spend.” 

Learn more about MCC’s partnership with Benin at www.mcc.gov/where-we-work/country/benin

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