A country of western Africa. Originally made up of several ancient kingdoms colonized by France in the 19th century, it became independent in 1960 and was renamed Benin in 1975. Porto-Novo is the capital and Cotonou the largest city. Population: 8,080,000.
A kingdom in southern Nigeria famous for bronze casting. Using the technique, metalworkers cast human heads and relief plaques in a long series which
Land and People
Benin falls into four main geographic regions. In the south is a narrow coastal zone (1-3 mi/1.6-4.8 km wide) fringed on the north by a series of interconnected lagoons and lakes with only two outlets to the sea (at Grand-Popo and Cotonou). Behind the coastal region is a generally flat area of fertile clay soils; this is crossed by the wide Lama marsh, through which flows the Ouémé River. In NW Benin is a region of forested mountains (the Atacora; highest point c.2,150 ft/655 m), from which the Mekrou and Pendjari rivers flow NE to the Niger River (which forms part of the country's northern border). In the northeast is a highland region covered mostly with savanna and containing little fertile soil.
Although there are 42 ethnic groups in Benin, its population is divided into four main ethnolinguistic groups-Fon, Yoruba, Voltaic, and Fulani. The Fon-speakers, who live in the south, include the Fon, or Dahomey (Benin's largest single ethnic group), Aja, Peda, and Chabe subgroups. The Yoruba live in the southeast near Nigeria, the group's main homeland. The Voltaic-speakers live in central and N Benin and include the Bariba and Somba subgroups. The Fulani live in the north. French is the country's official language; Fon, Yoruba, and other indigenous tongues are also spoken. About a third of the inhabitants follow traditional religious beliefs; voodoo originated here some 350 years ago but was only officially recognized in 1996. About 43% are Christian (largely Roman Catholic) and 25% (living mostly in the north) are Muslim. Benin's population is concentrated in the southern portion of the country and in rural areas.
Benin's economy is overwhelmingly agricultural, with most workers engaged in subsistence farming. The chief crops are cotton, corn, cassava, yams, beans, palm oil, peanuts, and cashews. Goats, sheep, and pigs are raised. There is a sizable freshwater fishing industry, and some ocean fish are also caught. Most of Benin's few manufactures are processed agricultural goods, basic consumer items, textiles, and building materials.
Petroleum, discovered offshore of Porto-Novo in 1968, and limestone are extracted. The country's other mineral resources, which include chromite, low-quality iron ore, ilmenite, and titanium, have not as yet been exploited. There is also a developing tourist industry. The country has limited rail and road systems, and they are almost exclusively in the southern and central parts of the country; rail lines are being extended to Niger. A hydroelectric plant completed in 1988 on the Mono River was a collaborative effort between Togo and Benin.
The chief imports are foodstuffs, capital goods, and petroleum products. The principal exports are cotton, cashews, shea butter, textiles, palm products, and seafood. The annual cost of imports usually exceeds earnings from exports. The leading trade partners are China, France, Thailand, Nigeria, and Indonesia.
Benin is governed under the constitution of 1990. The executive branch is headed by a president, who is both head of state and head of government. The president is popularly elected for a five-year term and is eligible for a second term. The unicameral legislature consists of the 83-seat National Assembly, whose members are popularly elected for four-year terms. Administratively, the country is divided into 12 departments.
Little is known about the history of N Benin. In the south, according to oral tradition, a group of Aja migrated (12th or 13th cent.) eastward from Tado on the Mono River and founded the village of Allada. Later, Allada became the capital of Great Ardra, a state whose kings ruled with the consent of the elders of the people. Great Ardra reached the peak of its power in the 16th and early 17th cent.
A dispute (c.1625) among three brothers over who should be king resulted in one brother, Kokpon, retaining Great Ardra. Another brother, Do-Aklin, founded the town of Abomey, and the third, Te-Agdanlin, founded the town of Ajatche or Little Ardra (called Porto-Novo by the Portuguese merchants who traded there). The Aja living at Abomey organized into a strongly centralized kingdom with a standing army and gradually mixed with the local people, thus forming the Fon, or Dahomey, ethnic group.
By the late 17th cent. the Dahomey were raiding their neighbors for slaves, who were then sold (through coastal middlemen) to European traders. By 1700, about 20,000 slaves were being transported annually, especially from Great Ardra and Ouidah, located on what was called the Slave Coast. In order to establish direct contact with the European traders, King Agaja of Dahomey (reigned 1708-32), who began the practice of using women as soldiers, conquered most of the south (except Porto-Novo). This expansion brought Dahomey into conflict with the powerful Yoruba kingdom of Oyo, which captured Abomey in 1738 and forced Dahomey to pay an annual tribute until 1818. However, until well into the 19th cent. Dahomey continued to expand northward and to sell slaves, despite efforts by Great Britain to end the trade.
In 1863, Porto-Novo accepted a French protectorate, hoping thereby to offset Dahomey's power. During the 1880s, as the scramble among the European powers for African colonies accelerated, France tried to secure its hold on the Dahomey coast in order to keep it out of German or British hands. King Behanzin (reigned 1889-93) attempted to resist the French advance, but in 1892-93 France defeated Dahomey, established a protectorate over it, and exiled Behanzin to Martinique. During the period 1895-98 the French added the northern part of present-day Benin, and in 1904 the whole colony was made part of French West Africa.
Under the French a port was constructed at Cotonou, railroads were built, and the output of palm products increased. In addition, elementary school facilities were expanded, largely under the auspices of Roman Catholic missions. In 1946, Dahomey became an overseas territory with its own parliament and representation in the French national assembly; in 1958, it became an autonomous state within the French Community.
The Postcolonial Period
On Aug. 1, 1960, Dahomey became fully independent. The country's first president was Hubert Maga, whose main support came from Parakou and the north and who was allied with Sourou Migan Apithy, a politician from Porto-Novo. Independent Dahomey was plagued by governmental instability that was caused by economic troubles, ethnic rivalries, and social unrest. In 1963, following demonstrations by workers and students, the armed forces staged a successful coup, putting Justin Ahomadegbé into power (in alliance with Apithy). Political unrest continued in Dahomey for the next six years until Lt. Col. Paul-Émile de Souza was made president in 1969.
Elections were attempted in 1970 but were canceled following severe disagreement between northern and southern politicians. Instead, a three-man presidential council (consisting of Maga, Ahomadegbé, and Apithy) was formed; each member was to lead the country for two years. The first leader was Maga, who in May, 1972, was replaced without incident by Ahomadegbé. However, in Oct., 1972, the military again intervened, toppling Ahomadegbé and installing an 11-man government headed by Maj. Mathieu Kérékou.
Kérékou declared Benin a Marxist-Leninist state and sought financial support from Communist governments in Eastern Europe and Asia. To distance the modern state from its colonial past, Dahomey became the People's Republic of Benin in 1975. Continual strikes and coup attempts resulted in the formation of a repressive militia. In 1989, with social unrest and economic problems besetting the country, Marxism was renounced as a state ideology.
In 1990 a national conference and a referendum provided for a new constitution and multiparty elections; Nicéphor Soglo defeated Kérékou at the polls and became president in 1991. Credited with reviving the economy but criticized as aloof and distant from the people, Soglo was defeated in the 1996 presidential election, which returned Kérékou to power. In the 1999 assembly elections, however, the opposition, led by Soglo's wife, Rosine, won the majority of seats. Conflict with Niger over the ownership of one of several disputed islands in the Niger River led to tensions in 2000; the islands were divided between the two nations in 2005 after international arbitration.
Kérékou was reelected in Mar., 2001, after Soglo withdrew from a runoff, accusing the president of fraud. The president's coalition won a majority in the national assembly in Mar., 2003. In 2005 Kérékou announced that he would retire in 2006 at the end of his term, and would not seek to amended the constitution to stay in power. In Mar., 2006, Thomas Yayi Boni, an economist who had previously headed the West African Development Bank, was elected president after a runoff, winning nearly 75% of the vote. In June, 2006, the national assembly voted to amend the constitution to extend assembly members' terms to five years, but the supreme court rejected the amendment as for violating the 1990 consensus that established the constitution. President Yayi survived an apparent assassination attempt in Mar., 2007. Yayi's coalition won a plurality of the seats in the national assembly in the elections later that month.
In July, 2010, the collapse of a company that was running a Ponzi scheme roiled the country. Some 130,000 were believed to have invested in it, many with their life savings. The interior minister and the chief prosecutor were dismissed for connections to the scheme, and many believed that the president was involved because photographs of him meeting with company officials were publicized by the company. National Assembly members accused Yayi of complicity in the scheme, but failed in an attempt (August) to impeach him. He won reelection in Mar., 2011, against a divided opposition.
See W. J. Argyle, The Fon of Dahomey (1966); I. A. Akinjogbin, Dahomey and Its Neighbours, 1708-1818 (1967); P. Manning, Slavery, Colonialism and Economic Growth in Dahomey, 1640-1960 (1982); S. Decalo, Historical Dictionary of Benin (2d ed. 1987); C. Allen and M. Radu, Benin and the Congo (1988).
The international dialing code for Benin, Republic Of is: 229
|It is 3:57 PM, March 7, in Benin.|
|Background:||Present day Benin was the site of Dahomey, a prominent West African kingdom that rose in the 15th century. The territory became a French Colony in 1872 and achieved independence on 1 August 1960, as the Republic of Benin. A succession of military governments ended in 1972 with the rise to power of Mathieu KEREKOU and the establishment of a government based on Marxist-Leninist principles. A move to representative government began in 1989. Two years later, free elections ushered in former Prime Minister Nicephore SOGLO as president, marking the first successful transfer of power in Africa from a dictatorship to a democracy. KEREKOU was returned to power by elections held in 1996 and 2001, though some irregularities were alleged. KEREKOU stepped down at the end of his second term in 2006 and was succeeded by Thomas YAYI Boni, a political outsider and independent. YAYI has begun a high profile fight against corruption and has strongly promoted accelerating Benin's economic growth.|
|Location:||Western Africa, bordering the Bight of Benin, between Nigeria and Togo|
|Geographic coordinates:||9 30 N, 2 15 E|
|Area:||total: 112,620 sq km |
land: 110,620 sq km
water: 2,000 sq km
|Area - comparative:||slightly smaller than Pennsylvania|
|Land boundaries:||total: 1,989 km |
border countries: Burkina Faso 306 km, Niger 266 km, Nigeria 773 km, Togo 644 km
|Maritime claims:||territorial sea: 200 nm|
|Climate:||tropical; hot, humid in south; semiarid in north|
|Terrain:||mostly flat to undulating plain; some hills and low mountains|
|Elevation extremes:||lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m |
highest point: Mont Sokbaro 658 m
|Natural resources:||small offshore oil deposits, limestone, marble, timber|
|Land use:||arable land: 23.53% |
permanent crops: 2.37%
other: 74.1% (2005)
|Irrigated land:||120 sq km (2003)|
|Total renewable water resources:||25.8 cu km (2001)|
|Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural):||total: 0.13 cu km/yr (32%/23%/45%) |
per capita: 15 cu m/yr (2001)
|Natural hazards:||hot, dry, dusty harmattan wind may affect north from December to March|
|Environment - current issues:||inadequate supplies of potable water; poaching threatens wildlife populations; deforestation; desertification|
|Environment - international agreements:||party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling |
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
|Geography - note:||sandbanks create difficult access to a coast with no natural harbors, river mouths, or islands|
note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality, higher death rates, lower population growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected (July 2009 est.)
|Age structure:||0-14 years: 45.2% (male 2,028,493/female 1,948,353) |
15-64 years: 52.1% (male 2,275,662/female 2,308,945)
65 years and over: 2.6% (male 94,569/female 135,810) (2009 est.)
|Median age:||total: 17.2 years |
male: 16.8 years
female: 17.7 years (2009 est.)
|Population growth rate:||2.977% (2009 est.)|
|Birth rate:||39.22 births/1,000 population (2009 est.)|
|Death rate:||9.69 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)|
|Net migration rate:||0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2009 est.)|
|Urbanization:||urban population: 41% of total population (2008) |
rate of urbanization: 4% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
|Sex ratio:||at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female |
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.99 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.7 male(s)/female
total population: 1 male(s)/female (2009 est.)
|Infant mortality rate:||total: 64.64 deaths/1,000 live births |
male: 68.07 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 61.04 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)
|Life expectancy at birth:||total population: 59 years |
male: 57.83 years
female: 60.23 years (2009 est.)
|Total fertility rate:||5.49 children born/woman (2009 est.)|
|HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:||1.2% (2007 est.)|
|HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:||64,000 (2007 est.)|
|HIV/AIDS - deaths:||3,300 (2007 est.)|
|Major infectious diseases:||degree of risk: very high |
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne diseases: malaria and yellow fever
respiratory disease: meningococcal meningitis
animal contact disease: rabies (2009)
|Nationality:||noun: Beninese (singular and plural) |
|Ethnic groups:||Fon and related 39.2%, Adja and related 15.2%, Yoruba and related 12.3%, Bariba and related 9.2%, Peulh and related 7%, Ottamari and related 6.1%, Yoa-Lokpa and related 4%, Dendi and related 2.5%, other 1.6% (includes Europeans), unspecified 2.9% (2002 census)|
|Religions:||Christian 42.8% (Catholic 27.1%, Celestial 5%, Methodist 3.2%, other Protestant 2.2%, other 5.3%), Muslim 24.4%, Vodoun 17.3%, other 15.5% (2002 census)|
|Languages:||French (official), Fon and Yoruba (most common vernaculars in south), tribal languages (at least six major ones in north)|
|Literacy:||definition: age 15 and over can read and write |
total population: 34.7%
female: 23.3% (2002 census)
|School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):||total: 7 years |
male: 9 years
female: 6 years (2001)
|Education expenditures:||4.4% of GDP (2004)|
|Country name:||conventional long form: Republic of Benin |
conventional short form: Benin
local long form: Republique du Benin
local short form: Benin
|Capital:||name: Porto-Novo (official capital) |
geographic coordinates: 6 29 N, 2 37 E
time difference: UTC+1 (6 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
note: Cotonou (seat of government)
|Administrative divisions:||12 departments; Alibori, Atakora, Atlantique, Borgou, Collines, Kouffo, Donga, Littoral, Mono, Oueme, Plateau, Zou|
|Independence:||1 August 1960 (from France)|
|National holiday:||National Day, 1 August (1960)|
|Constitution:||adopted by referendum 2 December 1990|
|Legal system:||based on French civil law and customary law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction|
|Suffrage:||18 years of age; universal|
|Executive branch:||chief of state: President Thomas YAYI Boni (since 6 April 2006); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government |
head of government: President Thomas YAYI Boni (since 6 April 2006)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president
elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term (eligible for a second term); runoff election held 19 March 2006 (next to be held in March 2011)
election results: Thomas YAYI Boni elected president; percent of vote - Thomas YAYI Boni 74.5%, Adrien HOUNGBEDJI 25.5%
|Legislative branch:||unicameral National Assembly or Assemblee Nationale (83 seats; members are elected by direct popular vote to serve four-year terms) |
elections: last held 31 March 2007 (next to be held by March 2011)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - FCBE 35, ADD 20, PRD 10, other and independents 18
|Judicial branch:||Constitutional Court or Cour Constitutionnelle; Supreme Court or Cour Supreme; High Court of Justice|
|Political parties and leaders:||Alliance for Dynamic Democracy or ADD; Alliance of Progress Forces or AFP; African Movement for Democracy and Progress or MADEP [Sefou FAGBOHOUN]; Benin Renaissance or RB [Rosine SOGLO]; Democratic Renewal Party or PRD [Adrien HOUNGBEDJI]; Force Cowrie for an Emerging Benin or FCBE; Impulse for Progress and Democracy or IPD [Theophile NATA]; Key Force or FC [Lazare S�HOU�TO]; Movement for the People's Alternative or MAP [Olivier CAPO-CHICHI]; Rally for Democracy and Progress or RDP [Dominique HOUNGNINOU]; Social Democrat Party or PSD [Bruno AMOUSSOU]; Union for the Relief or UPR [Issa SALIFOU]; Union for Democracy and National Solidarity or UDS [Sacca LAFIA] |
note: approximately 20 additional minor parties
|Political pressure groups and leaders:||other: economic groups; environmentalists; political groups; teachers' unions and other educational groups|
|International organization participation:||ACCT, ACP, AfDB, AU, ECOWAS, Entente, FAO, FZ, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO (correspondent), ITSO, ITU, ITUC, MIGA, MONUC, NAM, OAS (observer), OIC, OIF, OPCW, PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNMIL, UNMIS, UNOCI, UNWTO, UPU, WADB (regional), WAEMU, WCL, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO|
|Diplomatic representation in the US:||chief of mission: Ambassador Cyrille Segbe OGUIN |
chancery: 2124 Kalorama Road NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone:  (202) 232-6656
FAX:  (202) 265-1996
|Diplomatic representation from the US:||chief of mission: Ambassador Gayleatha B. BROWN |
embassy: Rue Caporal Bernard Anani, Cotonou
mailing address: 01 B. P. 2012, Cotonou
telephone:  21-30-06-50
FAX:  21-30-03-84
|Flag description:||two equal horizontal bands of yellow (top) and red (bottom) with a vertical green band on the hoist side|
|Economy - overview:||The economy of Benin remains underdeveloped and dependent on subsistence agriculture, cotton production, and regional trade. Growth in real output has averaged around 5% in the past seven years, but rapid population growth has offset much of this increase. Inflation has subsided over the past several years. In order to raise growth still further, Benin plans to attract more foreign investment, place more emphasis on tourism, facilitate the development of new food processing systems and agricultural products, and encourage new information and communication technology. Specific projects to improve the business climate by reforms to the land tenure system, the commercial justice system, and the financial sector were included in Benin's $307 million Millennium Challenge Account grant signed in February 2006. The 2001 privatization policy continues in telecommunications, water, electricity, and agriculture though the government annulled the privatization of Benin's state cotton company in November 2007 after the discovery of irregularities in the bidding process. The Paris Club and bilateral creditors have eased the external debt situation, with Benin benefiting from a G8 debt reduction announced in July 2005, while pressing for more rapid structural reforms. An insufficient electrical supply continues to adversely affect Benin's economic growth though the government recently has taken steps to increase domestic power production.|
|GDP (purchasing power parity):||$12.84 billion (2008 est.) |
$12.25 billion (2007)
$11.72 billion (2006)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
|GDP (official exchange rate):||$6.94 billion (2008 est.)|
|GDP - real growth rate:||4.8% (2008 est.) |
4.5% (2007 est.)
3.8% (2006 est.)
|GDP - per capita (PPP):||$1,500 (2008 est.) |
$1,500 (2007 est.)
$1,500 (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
|GDP - composition by sector:||agriculture: 33.2% |
services: 52.3% (2007 est.)
|Labor force:||5.38 million (2007 est.)|
|Population below poverty line:||37.4% (2007 est.)|
|Household income or consumption by percentage share:||lowest 10%: 3.1% |
highest 10%: 29% (2003)
|Distribution of family income - Gini index:||36.5 (2003)|
|Investment (gross fixed):||19.5% of GDP (2008 est.)|
|Budget:||revenues: $1.436 billion |
expenditures: $1.729 billion (2008 est.)
|Fiscal year:||calendar year|
|Inflation rate (consumer prices):||5.2% (2008 est.)|
|Central bank discount rate:||4.25% (31 December 2007)|
|Commercial bank prime lending rate:||NA|
|Stock of money:||$1.324 billion (31 December 2007)|
|Stock of quasi money:||$627.2 million (31 December 2007)|
|Stock of domestic credit:||$520.6 million (31 December 2007)|
|Market value of publicly traded shares:||$NA|
|Agriculture - products:||cotton, corn, cassava (tapioca), yams, beans, palm oil, peanuts, cashews; livestock|
|Industries:||textiles, food processing, construction materials, cement|
|Industrial production growth rate:||5.5% (2008 est.)|
|Electricity - production:||120 million kWh (2006 est.)|
|Electricity - consumption:||595 million kWh (2006 est.)|
|Electricity - exports:||0 kWh (2007 est.)|
|Electricity - imports:||590 million kWh (2006 est.)|
|Electricity - production by source:||fossil fuel: 14.2% |
other: 0% (2001)
|Oil - production:||0 bbl/day (2007 est.)|
|Oil - consumption:||9,232 bbl/day (2007 est.)|
|Oil - exports:||6,484 bbl/day (2005)|
|Oil - imports:||16,830 bbl/day (2007 est.)|
|Oil - proved reserves:||8 million bbl (1 January 2008 est.)|
|Natural gas - production:||0 cu m (2007 est.)|
|Natural gas - consumption:||0 cu m (2007 est.)|
|Natural gas - exports:||0 cu m (2007 est.)|
|Natural gas - imports:||0 cu m (2007 est.)|
|Natural gas - proved reserves:||1.133 billion cu m (1 January 2008 est.)|
|Current account balance:||-$485 million (2008 est.)|
|Exports:||$776 million f.o.b. (2008 est.)|
|Exports - commodities:||cotton, cashews, shea butter, textiles, palm products, seafood|
|Exports - partners:||China 24.7%, India 8.2%, Niger 6.6%, Togo 5.4%, Nigeria 5.3%, Belgium 4.6% (2007)|
|Imports:||$1.355 billion f.o.b. (2008 est.)|
|Imports - commodities:||foodstuffs, capital goods, petroleum products|
|Imports - partners:||China 44.5%, France 8.2%, US 6.5%, Thailand 6.3%, Malaysia 4.8% (2007)|
|Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:||$1.292 billion (31 December 2008 est.)|
|Debt - external:||$1.2 billion (2007)|
|Currency (code):||Communaute Financiere Africaine franc (XOF); note - responsible authority is the Central Bank of the West African States|
|Exchange rates:||Communaute Financiere Africaine francs (XOF) per US dollar - 447.81 (2008 est.), 493.51 (2007), 522.59 (2006), 527.47 (2005), 528.29 (2004) |
note: since 1 January 1999, the West African CFA franc (XOF) has been pegged to the euro at a rate of 655.957 CFA francs per euro; West African CFA franc (XOF) coins and banknotes are not accepted in countries using Central African CFA francs (XAF), and vice versa, even though the two currencies trade at par
|Telephones - main lines in use:||110,300 (2007)|
|Telephones - mobile cellular:||1.895 million (2007)|
|Telephone system:||general assessment: inadequate; fixed-line network characterized by aging, deteriorating equipment with fixed-line teledensity stuck at 1 per 100 persons; mobile-cellular telephone subscribership is increasing |
domestic: system of open-wire, microwave radio relay, and cellular connections; multiple mobile-cellular providers
international: country code - 229; landing point for the SAT-3/WASC fiber-optic submarine cable that provides connectivity to Europe and Asia; satellite earth stations - 7 (Intelsat-Atlantic Ocean) (2007)
|Radio broadcast stations:||AM 1, FM 34, shortwave 1 (2007)|
|Television broadcast stations:||6 (2007)|
|Internet country code:||.bj|
|Internet hosts:||848 (2008)|
|Internet Service Providers (ISPs):||4 (2002)|
|Internet users:||150,000 (2007)|
|Airports - with paved runways:||total: 1 |
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (2008)
|Airports - with unpaved runways:||total: 4 |
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 2 (2008)
|Railways:||total: 758 km |
narrow gauge: 758 km 1.000-m gauge (2006)
|Roadways:||total: 16,000 km |
paved: 1,400 km
unpaved: 14,600 km (2006)
|Waterways:||150 km (on River Niger along northern border) (2007)|
|Ports and terminals:||Cotonou|
|Military branches:||Benin Armed Forces (FAB): Army (l'Arme de Terre), Benin Navy (Forces Navales Beninois, FNB), Benin People's Air Force (Force Aerienne Populaire de Benin, FAPB) (2008)|
|Military service age and obligation:||21 years of age for compulsory and voluntary military service; in practice, volunteers may be taken at the age of 18; both sexes are eligible for military service; conscript tour of duty - 18 months (2006)|
|Manpower available for military service:||males age 16-49: 1,908,457 |
females age 16-49: 1,882,421 (2008 est.)
|Manpower fit for military service:||males age 16-49: 1,279,053 |
females age 16-49: 1,292,438 (2009 est.)
|Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually:||male: 101,549 |
female: 97,856 (2009 est.)
|Military expenditures:||1.7% of GDP (2006)|
|Disputes - international:||in September 2007, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) intervened to attempt to resolve the dispute over two villages along the Benin-Burkina Faso border that remain from 2005 ICJ decision; much of Benin-Niger boundary, including tripoint with Nigeria, remains undemarcated; in 2005, Nigeria ceded thirteen villages to Benin, but border relations remain strained by rival cross-border gang clashes; talks continue between Benin and Togo on funding the Adjrala hydroelectric dam on the Mona River|
|Refugees and internally displaced persons:||refugees (country of origin): 9,444 (Togo) (2007)|
|Illicit drugs:||transshipment point used by traffickers for cocaine destined for Western Europe; vulnerable to money laundering due to poorly enforced financial regulations (2008)|
Enfants du Benin debout
La liberte d'un cri sonore
Chante aux premiers feux de l'aurore
Enfants du Benin debout
Jadis a son appel
Ont su avec courage et ardeur
Livrez au prix du sang
Des combats eclatants
Accourez vous aussi
Batisseurs du present
Plus forts dans l'unite
Et chaque jour a la tache
Pour la prosperite
Construisez sans relache
|Republic of Benin
République du Bénin (French)
|Ethnic groups (2002)|
|Government||Multi-party presidential republic|
|-||Prime Minister||Pascal Koupaki|
|-||from France||August 1, 1960|
|-||Total||112,622 km2 (101st)
43,484 sq mi
|-||2012 estimate||9,598,787 (89th)|
|GDP (PPP)||2011 estimate|
|GDP (nominal)||2011 estimate|
|HDI (2011)|| 0.427
low · 167th
|Currency||West African CFA franc (
|Time zone||WAT (UTC+1)|
|-||Summer (DST)||not observed (UTC+1)|
|Drives on the||right|
|ISO 3166 code||BJ|
|a.||Cotonou is the seat of government.|
|Population estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality and death rates, lower population and growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected.|
Benin i// (French: Bénin, formerly Dahomey), officially the Republic of Benin (French: République du Bénin), is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Togo to the west, by Nigeria to the east and by Burkina Faso and Niger to the north. A majority of the population live on its small southern coastline on the Bight of Benin. The capital of Benin is Porto-Novo, but the seat of government is in Cotonou, the country's largest city. Benin covers an area of approximately 110,000 square kilometers (42,000 sq mi), with a population of approximately 9.05 million. Benin is a tropical, sub-Saharan nation, highly dependent on agriculture, with substantial employment and income arising from subsistence farming.
The official language of Benin is French. However, indigenous languages such as Fon and Yoruba are commonly spoken. The largest religious group in Benin is Roman Catholicism, followed closely by Islam, Vodun and Protestantism. Benin is a member of the United Nations, the African Union, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, South Atlantic Peace and Cooperation Zone, La Francophonie, the Community of Sahel-Saharan States, the African Petroleum Producers Association and the Niger Basin Authority.
From the 17th to the 19th century, modern day Benin was ruled by the Kingdom of Dahomey. This region was referred to as the Slave Coast from as early as the 17th century due to the large number of slaves shipped to the New World during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. After slavery was abolished, France took over the country and renamed it French Dahomey. In 1960, Dahomey gained full independence from France, bringing in a democratic government for the next 12 years.
A Marxist-Leninist state called the People's Republic of Benin existed between 1972 and 1990. Many sources[who?] state this regime led to repression and the collapse of the economy. In 1991, it was replaced by the current multi-party Republic of Benin.
During the colonial period and at independence, the country was known as Dahomey. It was renamed on November 30, 1975, to Benin after the body of water on which the country lies – the Bight of Benin – which, in turn, had been named after the Benin Empire. The country of Benin has no connection to Benin City in modern Nigeria, nor to the Benin bronzes.
The new name, Benin, was chosen for its neutrality. Dahomey was the name of the former Kingdom of Dahomey, which covered only most of the southern third of the present country and therefore did not represent Porto-Novo (a rival state in the south), the northwestern sector Atakora, nor the kingdom of Borgu, which covered the northeastern third.
|Part of a series on the|
|History of Benin|
|Kingdom of Dahomey|
|Kingdom of Whydah|
|First Franco-Dahomean War|
|Second Franco-Dahomean War|
|Republic of Dahomey|
|People's Republic of Benin|
|Republic of Benin|
The Kingdom of Dahomey formed from a mixture of ethnic groups on the Abomey plain. Historians theorize that the insecurity caused by slave trading may have contributed to mass migrations of groups to modern day Abomey, including some Aja, a Gbe people who are believed to have founded the city. Those Aja living in Abomey mingled with the local Fon people, also a Gbe people, creating a new ethnic group known as "Dahomey".
The Gbe peoples are said to be descendents of a number of migrants from Wyo. Gangnihessou (a member of an Aja dynasty that in the 16th century along with the Aja populace had come from Tado before settling and ruling separately in what is now Abomey, Allada, and Porto Novo) became the first ruler of the Dahomey Kingdom. Dahomey had a military culture aimed at securing and eventually expanding the borders of the small kingdom with its capital at modern-day Abomey.
The Dahomey Kingdom was known for its culture and traditions. Young boys were often apprenticed to older soldiers, and taught the kingdom's military customs until they were old enough to join the army. Dahomey was also famous for instituting an elite female soldier corps, called Ahosi or "our mothers" in the Fongbe language, and known by many Europeans as the Dahomean Amazons. This emphasis on military preparation and achievement earned Dahomey the nickname of "black Sparta" from European observers and 19th century explorers like Sir Richard Burton.
The kings of Dahomey sold their war captives into transatlantic slavery; otherwise the captives would have been killed in a ceremony known as the Annual Customs. By about 1750, the King of Dahomey was earning an estimated £250,000 per year by selling Africans to the European slave-traders. Though the leaders of Dahomey appeared initially to resist the slave trade, it flourished in the region of Dahomey for almost three hundred years (beginning in 1472 with a trade agreement with Portuguese merchants), leading to the area being named "the Slave Coast". Court protocols, which demanded that a portion of war captives from the kingdom's many battles be decapitated, decreased the number of enslaved people exported from the area. The number went from 102,000 people per decade in the 1780s to 24,000 per decade by the 1860s. The decline was partly due to the banning of the trans-Atlantic slave trade by Britain and other countries. This decline continued until 1885, when the last slave ship departed from the coast of the present-day Benin Republic bound for Brazil.
By the middle of the nineteenth century, Dahomey started to lose its status as the regional power. This enabled the French to take over the area in 1892. In 1899, the French included the land called French Dahomey within the French West Africa colony. In 1958, France granted autonomy to the Republic of Dahomey, and full independence as of August 1, 1960. The president who led them to independence was Hubert Maga.
For the next twelve years, ethnic strife contributed to a period of turbulence. There were several coups and regime changes, with four figures dominating — Hubert Maga, Sourou Apithy, Justin Ahomadegbé and Emile Derlin Zinsou — the first three representing a different area and ethnicity of the country. These three agreed to form a Presidential Council after violence marred the 1970 elections.
On May 7, 1972, Maga turned over power to Ahomadegbe. On October 26, 1972, Lt. Col. Mathieu Kérékou overthrew the ruling triumvirate, becoming president and stating that the country will not "burden itself by copying foreign ideology, and wants neither Capitalism, Communism, nor Socialism". On November 30, however, he announced that the country was officially Marxist, under the control of the Military Council of the Revolution (CNR), which nationalized the petroleum industry and banks. On November 30, 1975, he renamed the country to the People's Republic of Benin.
In 1979, the CNR was dissolved, and Kérékou arranged show elections where he was the only allowed candidate. Establishing relations with the People's Republic of China, North Korea, and Libya, he put nearly all businesses and economic activities under state control, causing foreign investment in Benin to dry up. Kérékou attempted to reorganize education, pushing his own aphorisms such as "Poverty is not a fatality", resulting in a mass exodus of teachers, along with a large number of other professionals. The regime financed itself by contracting to take nuclear waste first from the Soviet Union and later from France.
In 1989, riots broke out after the regime did not have money to pay its army. The banking system collapsed. Eventually Kérékou renounced Marxism and a convention forced Kérékou to release political prisoners and arrange elections. Marxism-Leninism was also abolished.
In 1991, Kérékou was defeated by Nicéphore Soglo, and became the first black African president to step down after an election. Kérékou returned to power after winning the 1996 vote. In 2001, a closely fought election resulted in Kérékou winning another term, after which his opponents claimed election irregularities.
In 1999, Kérékou issued a national apology for the central role Africans played in the Atlantic slave trade.
Kérékou and former president Soglo did not run in the 2006 elections, as both were barred by the constitution's restrictions on age and total terms of candidates. Kérékou is widely praised for making no effort to change the constitution so that he could remain in office or run again, unlike many African leaders.
On March 5, 2006, an election was held that was considered free and fair. It resulted in a runoff between Yayi Boni and Adrien Houngbédji. The runoff election was held on March 19, and was won by Boni, who assumed office on April 6. The success of the fair multi-party elections in Benin won praise internationally. Boni was reelected in 2011, taking 53.18% of the vote in the first round—enough to avoid a runoff election, becoming the first president to win an election without a runoff since the restoration of democracy in 1991.
Benin's politics take place in a framework of a presidential representative democratic republic, where the President of Benin is both head of state and head of government, within a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the legislature. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. The political system is derived from the 1990 Constitution of Benin and the subsequent transition to democracy in 1991.
Benin scored highly in the 2009 Ibrahim Index of African Governance, which comprehensively measures the state of governance across the continent. Benin was ranked 15th out of 53 African countries, and scored particularly well in the categories of Safety & Security and Participation & Human Rights.
In its 2007 Worldwide Press Freedom Index, Reporters Without Borders ranked Benin 53rd out of 169 countries.
Benin has been rated equal-88th out of 159 countries in a 2005 analysis of police, business and political corruption.
Benin is divided into twelve departments (French: départements) which, in turn, are subdivided into 77 communes. In 1999, the previous six departments were each split into two halves, forming the current twelve. The six new departments have not yet been assigned official capitals.[verification needed]
Benin, a narrow, north-south strip of land in west Africa, lies between the Equator and the Tropic of Cancer. Benin lies between latitudes 6° and 13°N, and longitudes 0° and 4°E. Benin is bounded by Togo to the west, Burkina Faso and Niger to the north, Nigeria to the east, and the Bight of Benin to the south.
With an area of 112,622 km2 (43,484 sq mi), Benin extends from the Niger River in the north to the Atlantic Ocean in the south, a distance of 650 km (404 mi). Although the coastline measures 121 km (75 mi) the country measures about 325 km (202 mi) at its widest point.
It is one of the smaller countries in West Africa, one-eighth the size of Nigeria, its neighbor to the east. It is, however, twice as large as Togo, its neighbor to the west.
Benin shows little variation in elevation and can be divided into four areas from the south to the north, starting with the low-lying, sandy, coastal plain (highest elevation 10 m (32.8 ft)) which is, at most, 10 km (6.2 mi) wide. It is marshy and dotted with lakes and lagoons communicating with the ocean. Behind the coast lies the Guinean forest-savanna mosaic-covered plateaus of southern Benin (altitude between 20 and 200 m (66 and 656 ft)), which are split by valleys running north to south along the Couffo, Zou, and Oueme Rivers.
Then an area of flat lands dotted with rocky hills whose altitude seldom reaches 400 m (1,312 ft) extends around Nikki and Save. Finally, a range of mountains extends along the northwest border and into Togo; this is the Atacora, with the highest point, Mont Sokbaro, at 658 m (2,159 ft).
Benin has fields of lying fallow, mangroves, and remnants of large sacred forests. In the rest of the country, the savanna is covered with thorny scrubs and dotted with huge baobab trees. Some forests line the banks of rivers. In the north and the northwest of Benin the Reserve du W du Niger and Pendjari National Park attract tourists eager to see elephants, lions, antelopes, hippos, and monkeys. Historically Benin has served as habitat for the endangered Painted Hunting Dog, Lycaon pictus; however, this canid is thought to have been locally extirpated.
Benin's climate is hot and humid. Annual rainfall in the coastal area averages 1300 mm or about 51 inches. Benin has two rainy and two dry seasons per year. The principal rainy season is from April to late July, with a shorter less intense rainy period from late September to November. The main dry season is from December to April, with a short cooler dry season from late July to early September. Temperatures and humidity are high along the tropical coast. In Cotonou, the average maximum temperature is 31 °C (87.8 °F); the minimum is 24 °C (75.2 °F).
Variations in temperature increase when moving north through a savanna and plateau toward the Sahel. A dry wind from the Sahara called the Harmattan blows from December to March, during which grass dries up, the vegetation turns reddish brown, and a veil of fine dust hangs over the country, causing the skies to be overcast. It also is the season when farmers burn brush in the fields.
The economy of Benin is dependent on subsistence agriculture, cotton production, and regional trade. Cotton accounts for 40 percent of GDP and roughly 80 percent of official export receipts. Growth in real output has averaged around 5 percent in the past seven years, but rapid population growth has offset much of this increase. Inflation has subsided over the past several years. Benin uses the CFA franc, which is pegged to the euro.
Benin’s economy has continued to strengthen over the past years, with real GDP growth estimated at 5.1 and 5.7 percent in 2008 and 2009, respectively. The main driver of growth is the agricultural sector, with cotton being the country’s main export, while services continue to contribute the largest part of GDP largely because of Benin’s geographical location, enabling trade, transportation, transit and tourism activities with its neighbouring states.
In order to raise growth still further, Benin plans to attract more foreign investment, place more emphasis on tourism, facilitate the development of new food processing systems and agricultural products, and encourage new information and communication technology. Projects to improve the business climate by reforms to the land tenure system, the commercial justice system, and the financial sector were included in Benin's US$307 million Millennium Challenge Account grant signed in February 2006.
The Paris Club and bilateral creditors have eased the external debt situation, with Benin benefiting from a G8 debt reduction announced in July 2005, while pressing for more rapid structural reforms. An insufficient electrical supply continues to adversely affect Benin's economic growth though the government recently has taken steps to increase domestic power production.
Although trade unions in Benin represent up to 75% of the formal workforce, the large informal economy has been noted by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITCU) to contain ongoing problems, including a lack of women's wage equality, the use of child labour, and the continuing issue of forced labour.
Benin is a member of the Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (OHADA).
Cotonou harbors the country's only seaport and international airport. A new port is currently under construction between Cotonou and Porto Novo. Benin is connected by 2 lane asphalted roads to its neighboring countries (Togo, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Nigeria). Mobile telephone service is available across the country through various operators. ADSL connections are available in some areas. Benin is connected to the Internet by way of satellite connections (since 1998) and a single submarine cable SAT-3/WASC (since 2001), keeping the price of data extremely high. Relief is expected with initiation of the Africa Coast to Europe cable in 2011.
The majority of Benin's population lives in the south. The population is young, with a life expectancy of 59 years. About 42 African ethnic groups live in this country; these various groups settled in Benin at different times and also migrated within the country. Ethnic groups include the Yoruba in the southeast (migrated from Nigeria in the 12th century); the Dendi in the north-central area (they came from Mali in the 16th century); the Bariba and the Fula (French: Peul or Peulh; Fula: Fulɓe) in the northeast; the Betammaribe and the Somba in the Atacora Range; the Fon in the area around Abomey in the South Central and the Mina, Xueda, and Aja (who came from Togo) on the coast.
Recent migrations have brought other African nationals to Benin that include Nigerians, Togolese, and Malians. The foreign community also includes many Lebanese and Indians involved in trade and commerce. The personnel of the many European embassies and foreign aid missions and of nongovernmental organizations and various missionary groups account for a large part of the 5500 European population. A small part of the European population consists of Beninese citizens of French ancestry, whose ancestors ruled Benin and left after independence.
Largest cities or towns of Benin
During the 1980s, less than 30% of the population had access to primary health care services. Benin had one of the highest death rates for children under the age of five in the world. Its infant mortality rate stood at 203 deaths for every 1000 live births. Only one in three mothers had access to child health care services. The Bamako Initiative changed that dramatically by introducing community-based health care reform, resulting in more efficient and equitable provision of services. A comprehensive approach strategy was extended to all areas of health care, with subsequent improvement in the health care indicators and improvement in health care efficiency and cost. Demographic and Health Surveys has completed three surveys in Benin since 1996.
Post-independence, the country was home to a vibrant and innovative music scene, where native folk music combined with Ghanaian highlife, French cabaret, American rock, funk and soul, and Congolese rumba.
Singer Angélique Kidjo and actor Djimon Hounsou were both born in Cotonou, Benin. Filmmaker and actor Didier Chabi was born in Kandi, Benin. Composer Wally Badarou and singer Gnonnas Pedro are also of Beninese descent.
Biennale Benin, continuing the projects of several organizations and artists started in the country in 2010 as a collaborative event called "Regard Benin". In 2012, the project become a Biennial coordinated by the Consortium, a federation of local associations. The international exhibition and artistic program of the 2012 Biennale Benin is curated by Abdellah Karroum and the Curatorial Delegation.
Local languages are used as the languages of instruction in elementary schools, with French only introduced after several years. In wealthier cities, however, French is usually taught at an earlier age. Beninese languages are generally transcribed with a separate letter for each speech sound (phoneme), rather than using diacritics as in French or digraphs as in English. This includes Beninese Yoruba, which in Nigeria is written with both diacritics and digraphs. For instance, the mid vowels written é è, ô, o in French are written e, ɛ, o, ɔ in Beninese languages, whereas the consonants written ng and sh or ch in English are written ŋ and c. However, digraphs are used for nasal vowels and the labial-velar consonants kp and gb, as in the name of the Fon language Fon gbe /fõ ɡ͡be/, and diacritics are used as tone marks. In French-language publications, a mixture of French and Beninese orthographies may be seen.
In the 2002 census, 27.2% of the population of Benin were Christian (7.1% Roman Catholic, 5% Celestial Church of Christ, 3.2% Methodist, 7.5% other Christian denominations), 24.4% were Muslim, 17.3% practiced Vodun, 6% other traditional local religious groups, 1.9% other religious groups, and 6.5% claim no religious affiliation.
Indigenous religions include local animistic religions in the Atakora (Atakora and Donga provinces) and Vodun and Orisha or Orisa veneration among the Yoruba and Tado peoples in the center and south of the country. The town of Ouidah on the central coast is the spiritual center of Beninese Vodun.
The major introduced religions are Christianity, followed throughout the south and center of Benin and in Otammari country in the Atakora, and Islam, introduced by the Songhai Empire and Hausa merchants, and now followed throughout Alibori, Borgou, and Donga provinces, as well as among the Yoruba (who also follow Christianity). Many, however, continue to hold Vodun and Orisha beliefs and have incorporated the pantheon of Vodun and Orisha into Christianity. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, a sect originating in the 19th century is also present, in a significant minority.
The literacy rate in Benin is among the lowest in the world: in 2002 it was estimated to be 34.7% (47.9% for males and 23.3% for females). Although at one time the education system was not free, Benin has abolished school fees and is carrying out the recommendations of its 2007 Educational Forum.
Beninese cuisine is known in Africa for its exotic ingredients and flavorful dishes. Beninese cuisine involves lots of fresh meals served with a variety of sauces. In southern Benin cuisine, the most common ingredient is corn, often used to prepare dough which is mainly served with peanut- or tomato-based sauces. Fish and chicken are the most common meats used in southern Beninese cuisine, but beef, goat, and bush rat are also consumed. The main staple in northern Benin is yams, often served with sauces mentioned above. The population in the northern provinces use beef and pork meat which is fried in palm or peanut oil or cooked in sauces. Cheese is used in some dishes. Couscous, rice, and beans are commonly eaten, along with fruits such as mangoes, oranges, avocados, bananas, kiwi fruit, and pineapples.
Meat is usually quite expensive, and meals are generally light on meat and generous on vegetable fat. Frying in palm or peanut oil is the most common meat preparation, and smoked fish is commonly prepared in Benin. Grinders are used to prepare corn flour, which is made into a dough and served with sauces. "Chicken on the spit" is a traditional recipe in which chicken is roasted over fire on wooden sticks. Palm roots are sometimes soaked in a jar with saltwater and sliced garlic to tenderize them, then used in dishes. Many people have outdoor mud stoves for cooking.
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