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Home African CEOs Benin’s Former PM Lionel Zinsou’s Dual Nationality is a Curse and Blessing
African CEOs - April 28, 2022

Benin’s Former PM Lionel Zinsou’s Dual Nationality is a Curse and Blessing

Lionel Zinsou is a French–Beninese economist cum politician. He was the Chairman and CEO of PAI Partners, France’s largest investment fund, before he was nominated as Prime Minister in Benin.

He served as Prime Minister from 2015 to 2016. As an ambitious leader, Zinsou wanted a higher political office, in which he believed he could make a more significant impact.

Therefore, he contested the 2016 presidential elections in Benin. Although he had the backing of the then outgoing President, Thomas Boni Yayi, and the main opposition Democratic Renewal Party, a stronger force worked against him.

Beninese perceived him as a foreigner because of his dual nationality. His closest opponent, Patrice Talon, the incumbent Benin President, maximised this sentiment to amass the people’s votes.

Before his political pursuits, Lionel Zinsou held leadership positions at top European companies, including Danone and Rothschild Bank, where he was a general partner and head of the Middle East and Africa branches. 


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The early days

His father hails from Benin, but Zinsou was born in Paris in 1954. He lived the majority of his life in France.

He holds advanced degrees from Université de Paris IV, Université de Paris VII, the London School of Economics, and the Institut des Etudes Politiques.


At the Université Paris XIII, Lionel Zinsou-Delrin began his career as a Senior Lecturer and Professor of Economics. 

He served as an adviser to the Minister of Industry and the Prime Minister of the French Republic in 1984. 

In 1986, he joined Danone, a multinational food-products corporation in Paris. He held numerous positions there, including Group Corporate Development Director and then CEO of HP Foods and Lea & Perrins, the company’s subsidiaries.

Zinsou became a managing partner at Rothschild & Cie bank in 1997. He served as Head of the Consumer Products Group, Head of the Middle East and Africa Region, and a member of the Global Investment Bank Committee.

He joined PAI Partners SAS in 2008 and served as Chairman from 2009 to 2015.

Lionel Zinsou also worked for the United Nations Development Programme as a consultant.

In 2017, he co-founded Southbridge, an African-focused financial and strategic consultancy organisation.

Lionel Zinsou became a Member of the Board of Directors at Danone in 2014. 

From 2010 to 2014, he was a member of the Board of Directors at Atos, an international information technology service and consultancy firm based in Bezons, France.


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