Africa :: Benin
page last updated on August 3, 2010
Flag of Benin
Map of Benin
Introduction ::Benin
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.
Geography ::Benin
Western Africa, bordering the Bight of Benin, between Nigeria and Togo
Geographic coordinates:
9 30 N, 2 15 E
Map references:
total: 112,622 sq km
country comparison to the world: 101
land: 110,622 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
121 km
Maritime claims:
territorial sea: 200 nm
Current Weather
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)
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
People ::Benin
country comparison to the world: 90
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 2010 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 45% (male 2,077,591/female 1,995,188)
15-64 years: 52.4% (male 2,358,533/female 2,384,241)
65 years and over: 2.7% (male 98,007/female 142,450) (2010 est.)
Median age:
total: 17.3 years
male: 16.9 years
female: 17.8 years (2010 est.)
Population growth rate:
2.944% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 14
Birth rate:
38.67 births/1,000 population (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 17
Death rate:
9.23 deaths/1,000 population (July 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 74
Net migration rate:
0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 85
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: 0.69 male(s)/female
total population: 1 male(s)/female (2010 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 63.13 deaths/1,000 live births
country comparison to the world: 31
male: 66.51 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 59.58 deaths/1,000 live births (2010 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 59.42 years
country comparison to the world: 188
male: 58.21 years
female: 60.68 years (2010 est.)
Total fertility rate:
5.4 children born/woman (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 13
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
1.2% (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 50
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
64,000 (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 58
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
3,300 (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 53
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)
noun: Beninese (singular and plural)
adjective: Beninese
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)
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)
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: 34.7%
male: 47.9%
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 comparison to the world: 90
Government ::Benin
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:
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
1 August 1960 (from France)
National holiday:
National Day, 1 August (1960)
adopted by referendum 2 December 1990
Legal system:
based on French civil law and customary law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
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
(For more information visit the World Leaders website Opens in New Window)
elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term (eligible for a second term); runoff election held on 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 on 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:
African Movement for Democracy and Progress or MADEP [Sefou FAGBOHOUN]; Alliance for Dynamic Democracy or ADD; Alliance of Progress Forces or AFP; 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 Democracy and National Solidarity or UDS [Sacca LAFIA]; Union for the Relief or UPR [Issa SALIFOU]
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:
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Cyrille Segbe OGUIN
chancery: 2124 Kalorama Road NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 232-6656
FAX: [1] (202) 265-1996
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador James A. KNIGHT
embassy: Rue Caporal Bernard Anani, Cotonou
mailing address: 01 B. P. 2012, Cotonou
telephone: [229] 21-30-06-50
FAX: [229] 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; green symbolizes hope and revival, yellow wealth, and red courage
note: uses the popular Pan-African colors of Ethiopia
Economy ::Benin
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 4% in the past three years, but rapid population growth has offset much of this increase. 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 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 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.
GDP (purchasing power parity):
$13.25 billion (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 139
$12.93 billion (2008 est.)
$12.31 billion (2007 est.)
note: data are in 2009 US dollars
GDP (official exchange rate):
$6.476 billion (2009 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
2.5% (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 72
5% (2008 est.)
4.6% (2007 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP):
$1,500 (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 198
$1,500 (2008 est.)
$1,500 (2007 est.)
note: data are in 2009 US dollars
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 33.2%
industry: 14.5%
services: 52.3% (2007 est.)
Labor force:
3.662 million (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 93
Unemployment rate:
NA% 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)
country comparison to the world: 82
Investment (gross fixed):
18% of GDP (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 113
revenues: $1.186 billion
expenditures: $1.842 billion (2009 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
2.2% (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 81
7.9% (2008 est.)
Central bank discount rate:
4.75% (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 112
4.25% (31 December 2007)
Commercial bank prime lending rate:
Stock of money:
$1.592 billion (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 99
$1.324 billion (31 December 2007)
Stock of quasi money:
$742.8 million (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 128
$627.2 million (31 December 2007)
Stock of domestic credit:
$NA (31 December 2008)
$520.6 million (31 December 2007)
Market value of publicly traded shares:
Agriculture - products:
cotton, corn, cassava (tapioca), yams, beans, palm oil, peanuts, cashews; livestock
textiles, food processing, construction materials, cement
Industrial production growth rate:
2.8% (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 48
Electricity - production:
124 million kWh (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 185
Electricity - consumption:
597 million kWh (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 157
Electricity - exports:
0 kWh (2008 est.)
Electricity - imports:
588 million kWh (2007 est.)
Oil - production:
0 bbl/day (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 117
Oil - consumption:
23,000 bbl/day (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 120
Oil - exports:
8,770 bbl/day (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 97
Oil - imports:
28,900 bbl/day (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 101
Oil - proved reserves:
8 million bbl (1 January 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 91
Natural gas - production:
0 cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 204
Natural gas - consumption:
0 cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 113
Natural gas - exports:
0 cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 55
Natural gas - imports:
0 cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 82
Natural gas - proved reserves:
1.133 billion cu m (1 January 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 98
Current account balance:
-$552 million (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 116
-$734 million (2008 est.)
$1.056 billion (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 147
$1.127 billion (2008 est.)
Exports - commodities:
cotton, cashews, shea butter, textiles, palm products, seafood
Exports - partners:
India 19.72%, China 13.18%, Niger 6.94%, Nigeria 6.56%, Indonesia 5.73%, Togo 5.63%, Namibia 4.17% (2009)
$1.59 billion (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 158
$1.843 billion (2008 est.)
Imports - commodities:
foodstuffs, capital goods, petroleum products
Imports - partners:
China 35.62%, US 7.51%, France 7.38%, Thailand 6.71%, Malaysia 6.13%, Netherlands 4.83%, Belgium 4.02% (2009)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:
$1.102 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 127
$1.263 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
Debt - external:
$1.2 billion (2007)
country comparison to the world: 144
Exchange rates:
Communaute Financiere Africaine francs (XOF) per US dollar - 481.35 (2009), 447.81 (2008), 493.51 (2007), 522.59 (2006), 527.47 (2005)
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
Communications ::Benin
Telephones - main lines in use:
159,000 (2008)
country comparison to the world: 131
Telephones - mobile cellular:
3.625 million (2008)
country comparison to the world: 98
Telephone system:
general assessment: inadequate system of open-wire, microwave radio relay, and cellular connections; fixed-line network characterized by aging, deteriorating equipment
domestic: fixed-line teledensity only about 2 per 100 persons; spurred by the presence of multiple mobile-cellular providers, cellular telephone subscribership has been increasing rapidly
international: country code - 229; landing point for the SAT-3/WASC fiber-optic submarine cable that provides connectivity to Europe and Asia; long distance fiber-optic links with Togo, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Nigeria; satellite earth stations - 7 (Intelsat-Atlantic Ocean) (2008)
Radio broadcast stations:
AM 1, FM 34, shortwave 1 (2007)
Television broadcast stations:
6 (2007)
Internet country code:
Internet hosts:
1,155 (2009)
country comparison to the world: 157
Internet users:
160,000 (2008)
country comparison to the world: 141
Transportation ::Benin
5 (2009)
country comparison to the world: 179
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (2009)
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 (2009)
total: 578 km
country comparison to the world: 113
narrow gauge: 578 km 1.000-m gauge (2008)
total: 16,000 km
country comparison to the world: 120
paved: 1,400 km
unpaved: 14,600 km (2006)
150 km (on River Niger along northern border) (2007)
country comparison to the world: 102
Ports and terminals:
Military ::Benin
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: 2,023,449
females age 16-49: 1,971,788 (2010 est.)
Manpower fit for military service:
males age 16-49: 1,331,242
females age 16-49: 1,345,145 (2010 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually:
male: 105,468
female: 101,603 (2010 est.)
Military expenditures:
1% of GDP (2009)
country comparison to the world: 128
Transnational Issues ::Benin
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)

Source: The World Factbook (CIA)