France-Togo-Benin/Niort: elected officials visit Cové and Atakpamé to boost international cooperation
From November 2 to 6, a delegation of elected representatives visited Niort's twin towns of Cové (Benin) and Atakpamé (Togo), with the aim of relaunching cooperation.
Make no mistake, they weren't on vacation: four elected officials from the City of Niort (Mayor Jérôme Baloge, his twinning deputy Rose-Marie Nieto, and Philippe Terrassin, in charge of participative life, as well as François Guyon for economic affairs) went to Benin and Togo, to Cové and Atakpamé, from November 2 to 6, spending two days in each commune. Niort has been twinned with Cové since 2006 and Atakpamé since 1986 (the first cooperation agreements date back to 1958). The elected representatives were accompanied by Mauricette Nicolle and Roland Bourneau, president and co-president of Anjca, the association responsible for these twinning arrangements.
This visit follows that of Atapkamé mayor Yawa Kouigan in 2022. "It had been more than 20 years since a delegation of elected representatives had visited Atapkamé. Atapkamé, and this was the first time a mayor had visited Cové," emphasizes Rose-Marie Nieto. Indeed, ties with Atapkamé had grown weaker since 2019, when the local twinning association, Adjan, was mothballed following the last municipal election. The more recent twinning with Cové has proved more regular over time.
"The aim was to get a feel for the realities".
"The aim of these visits was to get a feel for the realities," adds the deputy mayor. The City subsidizes Anjca to the tune of €30,000 each year on average, although the subsidy has been reduced to €10,000 since Covid and the reduction in links with the Togolese city. Since 2012, more than €500,000 has nevertheless been invested in schools or infrastructure, such as access to drinking water, by Anjca, half of the sums coming from Niort's subsidies, and part from its twin town's share.
On site, the stakes are indeed high, reports the association, particularly in terms of education. There's a high birth rate, around 4 children per woman," explains the deputy. They're not dying of hunger, but they're very deprived, and the children are working and taking part in everyday life," adds Mauricette Nicolle. We therefore plan to help finance textbooks and furniture (tables and benches).
There's also the question of infrastructure development. In Atakpamé, a drinking water point, already set up with the help of Anjca, needs to be repaired. In Cové, there is a project to electrify a school and a college, with the help of the association Electriciens sans frontières. There are also plans to develop the library set up by Anjca. In connection with International Clean-up Day, the purchase of dustbins for volunteer schools is also being considered.
But it is entrepreneurship that is truly new in the development of relationships. The municipality of Atapkamé is keen to "benefit from Niort's experience", explains Rose-Marie Nieto.
A delegation from the town of Atakpamé could visit in the spring to continue the cooperation. Elected representatives from Cové could make the trip in October 2024. All this to further deepen the agreement.