With help of American businesses and humanitarian organizations, the West African nation of Benin will continue to encourage its small and mid-sized firms to develop the country’s agricultural and infrastructure  sectors, said President NicÈphore DieudonnÈ Soglo. 

In Atlanta to sign a “Sister City” accord with the Beninese coastal city of Cotonou, Mr. Soglo credited the Carter Center with helping the country to develop its corn crop last year. He also spoke of infrastructure projects, such as one that will connect Benin more closely to neighboring Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country.

Benin’s fledgling democracy succeeded a Marxist government five years ago. Mr. Soglo, elected in 1991, has been an executive director of the World Bank and has also held various governmental posts in Benin since the country gained independence from France in 1960.

The devaluation of the African Financial Community‘s franc in 1994 by 50% was “an immense shock” for Benin, Mr. Soglo said. However, his economic planning minister, Robert Tagnon, said that the devaluation helped the country to increase domestic production and drive down its reliance on imports.

 Currently, Benin receives the most U.S. aid per capita of any of the French franc zone countries, despite minor American private sector trade with the nation. Mr. Soglo, who led a delegation of his cabinet ministers in the U.S., met with President Clinton July 13.