Vocational training partnership (BBP) of the Saar-Lor-Lux Environmental Center / HWK-Saarland in Benin sets standards in further training for craftsmen
Benin is located just North of the equator on the Atlantic coast of West Africa and enjoys more than 2200 hours of sunshine annually. These are good prerequisites for the use of solar energy, especially since the state is increasingly relying on this energy source in order to meet the regionally increasing annual electricity demand of around 10 percent. In addition, the technology is becoming ever cheaper, making it an affordable power source for the growing Beninese middle class. So it is not surprising that the demand for photovoltaic systems in Benin is increasing and that a dynamic economic sector is developing around this technology. In 2015, the national chambers of crafts, Confédération Nationale des Artisans du Bénin (CNAB) and Union des Chambres Interdépartementales de Métiers du Bénin (UCIMB) recognized the need for further professional training as a prerequisite for the expansion of solar energy: Many craftsmen could not satisfy the great demand for installation and maintenance services due to a lack of technical expertise. Accordingly, the demand from the craftsmen for practical and theoretical training in photovoltaics was and is high. This is where the vocational training partnership (BBP) launched in 2015, “Partenariat pour la Formation Professionnelle en Energies Renouvelables au Bénin” (PFPERB for short) comes in with its advanced training measures. In this project, the Saar-Lor-Lux Umweltzentrums gGmbH and the two Benin crafts organizations CNAB and UCIMB are working together to improve training for craftsmen in the field of renewable energies / photovoltaics in Benin. The project is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and sequa. The current funding approval expires at the end of the second phase (end of 2020).
By now a network of regional trainers has been set up nationwide, which offers the personnel infrastructure for decentralized further training for craftsmen in all departments. For example, The regional trainers of the PFPERB in 27 municipalities (from a total of 77 municipalities in Benin) held multi-day training events at which a total of 1175 electricians in all 12 departments were introduced and instructed in photovoltaic technology during project phase I (2015-2017). During phase II (2018-2020), the previously developed training courses were offered in three state-accredited modules (25 days) and training courses were also organized together with the Ministry of Crafts. So far 687 craftsmen have taken part in these trainings. In total, the project reached over 1850 craftsmen over the course of its two project phases.
Practical training in Parakou in Oktober 2018
The BBP can now refer to lasting effects, which the Benin government also noted and assessed positively. In Phase I of the BBP, the PFPERB developed three training modules that are based on the criteria that the West African Economic Union has set for photovoltaic installers. The modules, which build on one another, were officially recognized by the responsible ministry for vocational training at the end of 2018 and have been approved by the ministry for advanced training throughout the country.
Upon successful completion of the respective modules, the participants receive a certificate co-signed by the Ministry of Education, which the craftsmen can use as a seal of quality for professionally good services. Although the participants now must pay a financial contribution for the training, the events are in high demand. The aim of the BBP is that by the end of phase II (2020) this further training for craftsmen will be offered autonomously and independently by six further training institutions in Benin.
Trade fair Solarworld Photo: PFPERB / UWZ
Trade fair Solarworld Photo: PFPERB / UWZ
A highlight of the project was the solar trade fair initiated by PFPERB, which took place in 2017 as the first trade fair on this topic in Benin and has been organized annually since then. It was aimed at craftspeople and consumers. Thousands of people used the opportunity to learn about the advantages and possible uses of solar energy. In 2018, the trade fair was prominently supported by the Beninese energy minister, who took on the patronage and personally opened the trade fair.
The state restrictions during the first phase of the corona pandemic impaired project work for several weeks in spring 2020. In particular, the training courses in the decentralized vocational training centers could not take place for a long time. Schools and vocational training institutions were closed. A separation of the northern from the southern part of the country made trips to most of the training institutions with which the project works impossible.
Since it was not possible to predict how long the restrictions would last, alternative activity planning was only possible at short notice. The time was used to equip another training center with the didactic material necessary for the training, to organize the material storage and to develop hygiene measures for the training.
After about two months, the government’s restrictive measures were gradually relaxed and training activities were slowly resumed while respecting hygiene and distance rules. In the meantime, the project activities are largely running normally again under the given circumstances. The interest of the craftsmen has noticeably increased again and the demand from the craftsmen and the partnering vocational training centres for an expansion of the training is brought to the project. The number of partnering training institutions could be increased from six to eleven in 2021, so that the training courses for electricians can be reached nationwide as far as possible.
The BBP partners are planning an extension and / or a short-term measure to make up for the standstill due to the corona pandemic and to offer another cycle of training activities.
In the coming years, German development cooperation will also make greater efforts to promote vocational training in Benin, which is important for ensuring the sustainability of the results achieved so far. The ongoing BBP is currently the only German-Beninese development cooperation measure that aims to train craftsmen in Benin. The state reform of the craft sector focuses on the vocational training of craftspeople and has, among other things, led to the establishment of a new national chamber of crafts, the CMA-Bénin, which, according to its president, could benefit greatly from a chamber and association partnership (KVP).