Facts about Benin

World Facts Index

BeninPresent 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.

Geography of Benin

Location:
Western Africa, bordering the Bight of Benin, between Nigeria and Togo
Coordinates:
9 30 N, 2 15 E
Area:
total: 112,620 sq km
water: 2,000 sq km
land: 110,620 sq km
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
Coastline:
121 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
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

Population of Benin

Population:
8,532,547 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 45.5% (male 1,978,897/female 1,901,005)
15-64 years: 51.9% (male 2,195,667/female 2,236,458)
65 years and over: 2.6% (male 91,213/female 129,307)
Median age:
17.1 years
Infant mortality:
79.56 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 53.04 years
male: 51.9 years
female: 54.22 years
Total fertility rate:
5.2 children born/woman
Nationality:
noun: Beninese (singular and plural)
adjective: Beninese
Ethnic groups:
African 99% (42 ethnic groups, most important being Fon, Adja, Yoruba, Bariba), Europeans 5,500
Religions:
indigenous beliefs 50%, Christian 30%, Muslim 20%
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: 33.6%
male: 46.4%
female: 22.6%

Government

Country name:
conventional long form: Republic of Benin
conventional short form: Benin
local short form: Benin
former: Dahomey
local long form: Republique du Benin
Government type:
republic under multiparty democratic rule; dropped Marxism-Leninism December 1989; democratic reforms adopted February 1990; transition to multiparty system completed 4 April 1991
Capital:
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
Independence:
1 August 1960 (from France)
National holiday:
National Day, 1 August (1960)
Constitution:
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 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
Political parties and leaders:
Alliance of Progress Forces or AFP; African Movement for Democracy and Progress or MADEP [Sefou FAGBOHOUN]; Democratic Renewal Party or PRD [Adrien HOUNGBEDJI]; Impulse for Progress and Democracy or IPD; Key Force or FC; Movement for Development and Solidarity or MDS; Movement for Development by the Culture-Salute Party-Congress of People for Progress Alliance or Alliance MDC-PS-CPP; New Alliance or NA; Rally for Democracy and Progress or RDP; Renaissance Party du Benin or RB [Nicephore SOGLO]; The Star Alliance (Alliance E'toile) [Sacca LAFIA]; Union of Tomorrow's Benin or UBF [Bruno AMOUSSOU]
note: approximately 20 additional minor parties

Economy

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:
$12 billion (2007 est.)
GDP real growth rate:
3.5%
GDP per capita:
$1,100
GDP composition by sector:
agriculture: 31.6%
industry: 13.8%
services: 54.6%
Inflation rate:
3.5%
Budget:
revenues: $766.8 million
expenditures: $1.017 billion
Industries:
textiles, food processing, chemical production, construction materials
Electricity production by source:
fossil fuel: 14.2%
hydro: 85.8%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0%
Agriculture:
cotton, corn, cassava (tapioca), yams, beans, palm oil, peanuts; livestock
Exports:
cotton, crude oil, palm products, cocoa
Export partners:
China 31.6%, India 19.4%, Ghana 6.6%, Niger 6.2%, Indonesia 4.4%, Nigeria 4.4% 
Imports:
foodstuffs, capital goods, petroleum products
Import partners:
China 39.1%, France 8.7%, Thailand 7.1%, Cote d'Ivoire 6.1% 
Currency:
Communaute Financiere Africaine franc (XOF); note - responsible authority is the Central Bank of the West African States

SOURCES: The CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State, Area Handbook of the US Library of Congress

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