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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.


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

Geographic coordinates:

9 30 N, 2 15 E


total: 112,620 sq km
land: 110,620 sq km
water: 2,000 sq km

Land boundaries:

total: 1,989 km
border countries: Burkina Faso 306 km, Niger 266 km, Nigeria 773 km, Togo 644 km


121 km

Maritime claims:

territorial sea: 200 nm


tropical; hot, humid in south; semiarid in north


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)

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

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 and death rates, lower population and growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected (July 2006 est.)

Age structure:

0-14 years: 44.1% (male 1,751,709/female 1,719,138)
15-64 years: 53.5% (male 2,067,248/female 2,138,957)
65 years and over: 2.4% (male 75,694/female 110,198) (2006 est.)

Median age:

total: 17.6 years
male: 17.2 years
female: 18 years (2006 est.)

Population growth rate:

2.73% (2006 est.)

Birth rate:

38.85 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Death rate:

12.22 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Net migration rate:

0.67 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Sex ratio:

at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.97 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.69 male(s)/female
total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2006 est.)

Infant mortality rate:

total: 79.56 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 84.09 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 74.88 deaths/1,000 live births (2006 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 53.04 years
male: 51.9 years
female: 54.22 years (2006 est.)

Total fertility rate:

5.2 children born/woman (2006 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:

1.9% (2003 est.)

people living with HIV/AIDS:

68,000 (2003 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths:

5,800 (2003 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, yellow fever, and others are high risks in some locations
respiratory disease: meningococcal meningitis (2005)


noun: Beninese (singular and plural)
adjective: Beninese

Ethnic groups:

African 99% (42 ethnic groups, most important being Fon, Adja, Yoruba, Bariba), Europeans 5,500


indigenous beliefs 50%, Christian 30%, Muslim 20%


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


definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 33.6%
male: 46.4%
female: 22.6% (2002 est.)

Country name:

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

Government type:

republic under multiparty democratic rule; dropped Marxism-Leninism December 1989


Porto-Novo is the official capital; Cotonou is the seat of government

Administrative divisions:

12 departments; Alibori, Atakora, Atlantique, Borgou, Collines, Kouffo, Donga, Littoral, Mono, Oueme, Plateau, Zou


1 August 1960 (from France)

National holiday:

National Day, 1 August (1960)


December 1990

Legal system:

based on French civil law and customary law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction


18 years of age; universal

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 30 March 2003 (next to be held March 2007)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - Presidential Movement (UBF, MADEP, FC, Alliance MDC-PC-CPP, IPD, AFP, MDS, RDP) 52, opposition (PRB, PRD, E'toile, and 5 other small parties) 31

Judicial branch:

Constitutional Court or Cour Constitutionnelle; Supreme Court or Cour Supreme; High Court of Justice

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 six 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. Many of these proposals are included in Benin's application to receive Millennium Challenge Account funding - for which it was a finalist in 2004-05. The 2001 privatization policy continues in telecommunications, water, electricity, and agriculture in spite of government reluctance. 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. Benin continues to be hurt by Nigerian trade protection that bans imports of a growing list of products from Benin and elsewhere, which has resulted in increased smuggling and criminality in the border region.

GDP (purchasing power parity):

$8.669 billion (2005 est.)

GDP (official exchange rate):

$4.312 billion (2005 est.)

GDP - real growth rate:

3.9% (2005 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP):

$1,100 (2005 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:

agriculture: 33.9%
industry: 13.6%
services: 52.5% (2004 est.)

Population below poverty line:

33% (2001 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):

3.2% (2005 est.)

Investment (gross fixed):

20.1% of GDP (2005 est.)


revenues: $766.8 million
expenditures: $1.017 billion; including capital expenditures of $NA (2005 est.)

Agriculture - products:

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


textiles, food processing, construction materials, cement

Industrial production growth rate:

8.3% (2001 est.)

Electricity - production:

69 million kWh (2003)

Electricity - consumption:

538.2 million kWh (2003)

Electricity - imports:

474 million kWh (2003)

Oil - production:

400 bbl/day (2003)

Oil - consumption:

12,000 bbl/day (2003 est.)

Oil - proved reserves:

4.105 million bbl (1 January 2002)

Natural gas - proved reserves:

1.218 billion cu m (1 January 2002)

Current account balance:

-$155.1 million (2005 est.)


$826.9 million f.o.b. (2005 est.)

Exports - commodities:

cotton, crude oil, palm products, cocoa

Exports - partners:

China 29.5%, India 18.8%, Ghana 6.4%, Niger 6%, Indonesia 4.3%, Nigeria 4.3% (2004)


$1.043 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.)

Imports - commodities:

foodstuffs, capital goods, petroleum products

Imports - partners:

China 32.5%, France 13.1%, Thailand 6.8%, Cote d'Ivoire 4.5% (2004)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:

$523.7 million (2005 est.)

Debt - external:

$1.6 billion (2000)

Economic aid - recipient:

$342.6 million (2000)

Currency (code):

Communaute Financiere Africaine franc (XOF); note - responsible authority is the Central Bank of the West African States

Fiscal year:

calendar year

Telephones - main lines in use:

72,800 (2004)

Telephones - mobile cellular:

386,700 (2004)

Telephone system:

general assessment: NA
domestic: fair system of open-wire, microwave radio relay, and cellular connections
international: country code - 229; satellite earth station - 7 (Intelsat-Atlantic Ocean); fiber optic submarine cable (SAT-3/WASC) provides connectivity to Europe and Asia

Radio broadcast stations:

AM 2, FM 9, shortwave 4 (2000)

Television broadcast stations:

1 (2001)

Internet country code:


Internet hosts:

814 (2005)

Internet users:

100,000 (2005)


5 (2005)

Airports - with paved runways:

total: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (2005)

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 (2005)


total: 578 km
narrow gauge: 578 km 1.000-m gauge (2004)


total: 6,787 km
paved: 1,357 km
unpaved: 5,430 km (1999)


150 km (on River Niger along northern border) (2005)

Ports and terminals:


Military branches:

Army, Navy, Air Force

Disputes - international:

Benin and Burkina Faso military clash in 2006 over sections of riverine boundary involving disputed villages and squatters; much of Benin-Niger boundary, including tripoint with Nigeria, remains undemarcated; in 2005, Nigeria ceded thirteen villages to Benin as a consequence of a 2004 joint task force to resolve maritime and land boundary disputes, but clashes among rival gangs along the border persist; a joint boundary commission continues to resurvey the boundary with Togo to verify Benin's claim that Togo moved boundary stones

Illicit drugs:

transshipment point for narcotics associated with Nigerian trafficking organizations and most commonly destined for Western Europe and the US; vulnerable to money laundering due to a poorly regulated financial infrastructure