French Defense Ministry’s Operating Group Awarded €11.7m Support Contract for Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Programme in Benin.
France’s Défense Conseil International (DCI), the operating group of the French Ministry for the Armed Forces, has just won an €11.7m support contract for an intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) programme in Benin. The contract, which was awarded on September 30, 2023, will see DCI provide Benin with drones and other equipment, as well as training for its personnel.
The DCI is a French government agency that provides assistance to foreign governments on defense and security matters. It has a long track record of working with African countries, and it currently has contracts in place with over 20 countries on the continent.
DCI group supports the capability development of international armed forces and security forces through the transfer of the French Armed Forces know-how. The French company offers Drones as a service: operating state or military drone fleets (ex: ISR), data collecting, UAV tracking services, etc.
In July last year, President Emmanuel Macron said France could deliver drones and more sophisticated weapons to Benin to help it tackle a worsening Islamist insurgency that is threatening the region.
Macron made the pledge during a joint press conference with Benin’s President Patrice Talon on the second leg of his three-nation tour of Cameroon, Benin and Guinea-Bissau.
Benin, alongside the Gulf of Guinea states Togo and Ivory Coast, has seen increasing attacks from militants linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State as violence spreads south from the Sahel countries of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.
This non-lethal aid programme follows a request from Benin for assistance in the fight against the Groupe de Soutien à l’Islam et aux Musulmans (GSIM), an Islamist militant group affiliated to Al-Qaeda in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb, as part of the Operation Mirador military operation along the border with Burkina Faso.
The contract is a significant development for DCI, which is expanding its operations in Africa. DCI has already provided support to the Beninese Armed Forces on a number of projects, including the development of a new counter-terrorism strategy.
Macron also said France was already providing Benin with intelligence, training support, and other civilian aid to help develop areas that are vulnerable jihadist threats.
Macron pledged to soon deliver vehicles, de-mining equipment, bulletproof vests and night vision equipment. Benin was hoping for more because the fight against terrorism has become one country’s major challenges, which could hurt its economy.
The support contract includes the purchase of a second-hand aircraft (a Cessna, Kodiak or Pilatus) alongside its optronic system.
The contract is also a sign of the growing importance of drones in African militaries. Drones are increasingly being used by African countries for a variety of missions, including intelligence gathering, surveillance, and border security.
The ISR programme will help Benin to improve its ability to monitor its borders and track down terrorist groups.
The contract award comes at a time when France is facing increasing scrutiny over its military presence in Africa. In July 2023, Niger suspended France’s lethal aid programme after a series of anti-French protests.
Meanwhile, the Chinese government has donated four NORINCO Type PMR-50 drone to the Benin Republic to improve its security and crime detection amid the emergence of terror activities around the country.
This July, the Benin Air Force received three Puma helicopters from France as part of a donation to help the country’s fight against terrorism. The helicopters were handed over to the Benin government on July 6, 2023, in a ceremony attended by French Defense Minister Florence Parly and Benin’s Minister of Defense Fortunet Nomade.
Earlier in February, France handed nearly a dozen Forward Armored Vehicles (VAB) over to the Beninese Armed Forces. It is the first batch of 8 armoured forward vehicles out of an expected 15 which was handed over this Friday, January 20, 2023, to the Beninese armed forces. The armoured vehicles are equipped with support weapons and night vision equipment to provide secure transport for troops in theatres and protect them against weapons and their homemade mines used by terrorists.