Skip Navigation
Benin

Benin

Benin officially the Republic of Benin, and also known as Benin Republic is a country in Western Africa. It borders Togo to the west, Nigeria to the east and Burkina Faso and Niger to the north; its short coastline to the south leads to the Bight of Benin.

JSC ASC Email JSCASC

Background History

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, who won a second five-year term in March 2011, has attempted to stem corruption and has strongly promoted accelerating Benin's economic growth.

Government

Country Name:

  • conventional long form: Republic of Benin
  • conventional short form: Benin
  • local long form: Republique du Benin
  • local shorts form: Benin
  • former: Dahomey

Capital:

  • name: Porto-Novo
  • population: 276,000
  • geographic coordinates: 6 29 N, 2 37 E
  • time difference: UTC+1 (6 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)

Independence:

  • 1 August 1960 (from France)

Government Type:

  • Republic

Executive Branch:

  • chief of state: President Thomas Yayi Boni (since 6 April 2006)
  • 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); last held on 13 March 2011 (next to be held in March 2016)

Legislative Branch:

  • structure: unicameral National Assembly

Judicial Branch:

  • structure: Constitutional Court

People & Society

Population:

  • 9,598,787 (global rank: 89)
  • growth rate: 2.877% (global rank: 14)

Nationality:

  • noun: Beninese (singular and plural)
  • adjective: Beninese

Major Cities:

  • Cotonou: 815,000; Porto-Novo (capital): 276,000

Ethnic Groups:

  • Fon 39.2%, Adja 15.2%, Yoruba 12.3%, Bariba 9.2%, Peulh 7%, Ottamari 6.1%, Yoa-Lokpa 4%, Dendi 2.5%, other 1.6% (includes Europeans), unspecified 2.9%

Religions:

  • Catholic 27.1%, Muslim 24.4%, Vodoun 17.3%, Protestant 10.4% (Celestial 5%, Methodist 3.2%, other Protestant 2.2%), other Christian 5.3%, other 15.5%

Languages:

  • French (official), Fon and Yoruba (most common vernaculars in south), tribal languages (at least six major ones in north)

Life Expectancy at Birth:

  • total population: 60.26 years (global rank: 188)
  • male: 59 years
  • female: 61.59 years

Infant Mortality:

  • total population: 60.03 deaths/1,000 live births (global rank: 29)
  • male: 63.3 deaths/1,000 live births
  • female: 56.59 deaths/1,000 live births

HIV/AIDS:

  • adult prevalence rate: 1.2% (2009 est.) (global rank: 41)
  • people living with AIDS: 60,000 (2009 est.) (global rank: 55)

Literacy:

  • definition: age 15 and over can read and write
  • total population: 34.7%
  • male: 47.9%
  • female: 23.3%

Economy

Overview: The economy of Benin remains underdeveloped and dependent on subsistence agriculture, cotton production, and regional trade. Growth in real output had averaged almost 4% before the global recession, but fell to 2.7% in 2009 and 3% in 2010. Inflation has subsided over the past several years. In order to raise growth, 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. The Paris Club and bilateral creditors have eased the external debt situation, with Benin benefiting from a G-8 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. Private foreign direct investment is small, and foreign aid accounts for the majority of investment in infrastructure projects. Cotton, a key export, suffered from flooding in 2010-11, but high prices supported export earnings. The government agreed to 25% increase in civil servant salaries in 2011, following a series of strikes, has increased pressure on the national budget. Benin has appealed for international assistance to mitigate piracy against commercial shipping in its territory.

Gross Domestic Product:

  • GDP (PPP): $14.79 billion (global rank: 138)
  • GDP per capita (PPP): $1,500 (global rank: 198)
  • real growth rate: 3.8% (global rank: 107)
  • composition by sector: agriculture: 35.5%, industry: 6.1%, services: 58.4%

Currency:

  • currency: Communaute Financiere Africaine Francs (XOF)
  • exchange rate (per US Dollar): 437.7

Poverty:

  • population below poverty line: 37.4%
  • unemployment rate: NA

Agricultural Products:

  • cotton, corn, cassava (tapioca), yams, beans, palm oil, peanuts, cashews; livestock

Industries:

  • textiles, food processing, construction materials, cement

Exports Commodities:

  • cotton, cashews, shea butter, textiles, palm products, seafood

Imports Commodities:

  • foodstuffs, capital goods, petroleum products

Geography

Location:

  • Western Africa, bordering the Bight of Benin, between Nigeria and Togo

Area:

  • total: 112,622 sq km (global rank: 102)
  • land: 110,622 sq km
  • water: 2,000 sq km
  • comparative: slightly smaller than Pennsylvania

Climate:

  • tropical; hot, humid in south; semiarid in north

Land Use:

  • arable land: 23.53%
  • permanent crops: 2.37%
  • other: 74.1%

Natural Resources:

  • small offshore oil deposits, limestone, marble, timber

Current Environmental Issues:

  • inadequate supplies of potable water; poaching threatens wildlife populations; deforestation; desertification

Transnational Issues

  • international disputes: talks continue between Benin and Togo on funding the Adjrala hydroelectric dam on the Mona River; Benin retains a border dispute with Burkina Faso around the town of Koualou; location of Benin-Niger-Nigeria tripoint is unresolved
  • refugees (country of origin): 9,444 (Togo)
  • illicit drugs:transshipment point used by traffickers for cocaine destined for Western Europe; vulnerable to money laundering due to poorly enforced financial regulations

For more info please contact:
African Studies
(310) 825-3686
africa@international.ucla.edu

To print this page, select "Print" from the File menu of your browser.